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Graphic 1

The example above is all too common - amenity symbols, without differentiation of shape or color to denote accessibility and without descriptions.

The examples to the left compare the common practice of using one shape and color to denote amenities at a site, versus the recommended practice of using both shape and color and to further explain the meaning of each symbol for each location.  Symbols that denote an accessible amenity should be clearly differentiated from those that denote inaccessible amenities.

Color provides an immediate cue, but a different shape is useful to people who are color blind.  Pairing useful symbols with clear descriptions of their specific location is also helpful.  For example, not every parking lot may be accessible to the same degree, even though technically they are ADA compliant.

Use a key to differentiate the meaning of symbols, for instance:

Parking at the Wildlife Center is ADA compliant.

Restrooms are ADA compliant and located at the trailhead entrance and inside the Wildlife Center.

Picnic areas located at the trailhead adjacent to the restrooms are covered, with two accessible tables. 

Graphic 2

The example below uses color and shape to differentiate accessible features from those that are inaccessible and adds useful descriptions.

Accessible feature

Non-accessible feature

Although not a requirement, these Guidelines propose using blue circles to designate accessible features, which is becoming universally accepted.


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SummaryUse international symbols as a simple way of identifying the different amenities available at a site. Code accessible facilities and trail features with a blue circle.

Description When providing information graphically the use of standard symbols, such as the NPS Standard Cartographic Symbols, can provide an easy way to communicate accessibility information.  By using both color and different shapes to denote accessible facilities, this information can easily be added to existing maps.

Importance/Purpose Complex webpages often have accessibility information included, but it may be difficult to locate.  By giving visual clues, such as shape and color, it is easy to focus on accessibility without compromising content.  The use of color alone does not satisfy all purposes, as for people who are color blind, so shape and color in combination is the key.

Examples Converting a standard brown square restroom symbol into a blue circular restroom symbol is an example of how this can be readily achieved. 

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