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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality
Theme: Accessibility :
Accessibility for the Disabled - A Design Manual for a Barrier Free Environment
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Orientation difficulties resulting from illegible directional signs, street names and numbering and/or the lack of them.

Pedestrian accidents due to badly positioned signs.

Hazards due to lack of warning and traffic signals.

Non-identification of access routes and accessible facilities.


To facilitate orientation mainly for the disabled.


3.1 General

*Signage include direction signs, signs of locality, street names and numbering, information signs, etc.

*All types of signs should be visible, clear, simple, easy to read and understand, and properly lit at night.

*In general, signs should not be placed behind glass because of possible reflection.

*Signage placed on the pedestrian path of travel are considered obstructions; thus, they should be detectable (see Obstructions).

3.2 International symbol of accessibility

*Accessible spaces and facilities should be identified by the international symbol of accessiblity (fig. 1).

*The symbol is composed of a wheelchair figure with either a square background or a square border (fig. 2).

*Contrasting colours should be used to differentiate the figure from the background. The commonly employed colours are white for the figure and blue for the background.

*The wheelchair figure should always be seen from drawn facing right.

*For completely accessible buildings, it is enough to have one explanatory sign at the entrance.

3.3 Direction signs

*Graphic or written directions should be used to indicate clearly the type and location of the available facility (fig. 3).

*Directional signs need not be excessive in number, but they should be placed at main entrances and doors and in places where changes in direction or level occur.

3.4 Street names

*Fixed signs indicating street names should be placed at a maximum height of 2.50 m (fig. 4).

3.5 House numbers

*Fixed signs indicating house numbers should be placed at a maximum height of 2.00 m (fig. 4).

3.6 Maps and information panels

*Maps and information panels at building entrances, along roads, and on public buildings should be placed at a height between 0.90 m and 1.80 m (fig. 5).

3.7 Installation

*Signs can be wall-mounted, suspended or pole-mounted.

(a) Wall-Mounted signs:

Wall-mounted signs, such as those indicating room numbers, should be placed with the centre line at a height between 1.40 m and 1.60m from the finished floor level.

(b) Overhanging signs:

Overhanging signs should allow a minimum clearance of 2.00 m (see Obstructions).

(c)Pole-Mounted signs:

(see Obstructions)

3.8 Shape of signboards

*Information signboards should be rectangular.

*Warning signboards should be triangular.

*Interdictory signboards should be circular.

3.9 Colour

*The colour of signs should contrast with the surrounding surface so as to be clearly distinguishable.

*The commonly used colours are: white, black, yellow, red, blue and green.

*The colour combinations red/green and yellow/blue should not be used in order to avoid confusing colour- blind persons.

3.10 Surface

*The sign surface should be processed to prevent glare.

*Engraved texts should be avoided unless they are coloured. Relief prints are advisable.

*Key plans, orientation signs and push buttons in lifts must have a text in Braille or in relief. (1)

3.11 Lettering

*The size of letters should be in proportion to the reading distance (fig. 6).

*Character width-to-height ratio should be between 3:5 and 1:1 and the character stroke width-to-height ratio should be between 1:5 and 1:10 (fig. 7).

*The letters and signs should preferably be raised at least 1 mm from the background, to enable sightless people to read the information using the tips of their fingers.

*The smallest letter type should not be less than 15 mm.

*Normal spacing between words and letters should be used.


*The international symbol of accessibility should be added to mark accessible spaces and facilities.

*Directional signs should be added to indicate clearly the location and function of accessible spaces and facilities.

*Signs that do not comply with the above design requirements should be modified or replaced.


(1) Not all sightless persons are familiar with Braille.

International Symbol of Accessibility
Fig. 1


International Symbol of Accessibility, one with a square background and another with a square border
Fig. 2


International Symbol of Accessibility with directional signs
Fig. 3


Signs with house numbers at 2.0 meters; Street signs max. 2.5 meters
Fig. 4


Location of maps and information panels
Fig. 5


The size of letters should be in proportion to the reading distance
Fig. 6


Character width-to-height ratios
Fig. 7

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development