If you’ve ordered ADA signage before, you’re probably familiar with terminology such as “tactile lettering” or “raised copy”. But what does that actually mean? Is all raised copy the same?
Tactile is defined as perceptible by touch, so the words “tactile” and “raised” mean the same thing for sign specifications. The vast majority of copy we produce is made with 1-ply engraving stock, which is a single-layer modified acrylic that can be cut on a router and often on a laser as well. Engraving stock can come in a number of different thicknesses, usually ranging from 1/32” to 1/8”. For ADA sign copy, 1/32” is the standard thickness. It also comes standard in a variety of colors, or it can be custom-painted to match your colors.
There are a number of methods available for creating such copy, each with its own set of advantages over the others. Our three most commonly used methods are applied, inlay, and cut & paste.
Applied is our most popular style of ADA-compliant copy. In this method, multiple signs are cut at one time, so it is the most budget-friendly option available. First, a layer of 1/32” engraving stock is applied to a second, thicker sheet of material that will become the sign face. Next, all of the lettering is cut out of the engraving stock, with the bit just lightly touching the surface of the sign face. After that, the negative area of the engraving stock is weeded out so that only the copy and the sign faces remain. This leaves a beveled edge on the copy, and the signs are ready to be cut out and cleaned up.
Pros: Beveled edge, budget-friendly
Cons: Sign faces have to be acrylic or a similar material
Cut & Paste
Unlike with applied copy, cut & paste copy is done one sign at a time. The engraving stock is laser-cut first, and then applied to an individual sign face with a template afterwards, making it a more labor-intensive process. The advantage with this method is that it opens up a greater range of materials that can be used for faceplates, such as aluminum and laminates. Because it is laser-cut, this style of copy does not have beveled edges.
Pros: Allows for variety of sign face materials
Cons: Least tamper-resistant build, labor-intensive
Our third style of copy, inlay, is our most tamper-resistant option, and is comparable in durability to thermoformed and photopolymer signage. With inlay copy, a 1/32” channel is routed into the sign face. The copy, 1/16” thick for this style, is then mounted into place with a chemical weld so that only 1/32” stands out from the sign face. Like with cut & paste copy, this method is labor-intensive, but it can be a wise choice for places where there’s a greater chance of someone picking at the lettering.
Pros: More tamper-resistant than Applied or Cut & Paste, durable
Cons: Requires thicker copy material, labor-intensive
General Copy Specifications
- Minimum copy height for ADA compliance: 5/8” (63pt for Arial and Helvetica)
- Maximum copy height for ADA compliance: 2” (200pt for Arial and Helvetica)
- Minimum stroke width (production restriction): .09”
- ADA compliant copy depth: 1/32”
- ADA font requirements: All caps, sans-serif, not bold, not script, not decorative
When you need signage with tactile/raised copy for your local school, the inlay method is your best friend. In most other instances, applied copy will get you and your client where you need to go.