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This page on accessibility was originally written for Science Fiction conventions and is based heavily on WisCon's accessibility practices.

Main article: Accessibility

Why is Signage a part of Access?[]

The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines include extensive signage requirements because good signs remove barriers.

  • For those of us with mobility impairments, knowing exactly where you’re going saves steps, threading through crowds, and peering up at doors
  • For those of us with cognition impairments, obvious travel paths require less working memory, minimizing anxiety and frustration. Functional room signs eliminate translation “what room number am I looking for?”
  • For those of us with vision impairments, perceptible signs make independent travel possible

Good signage makes all convention members feel welcome and secure. It minimizes cross-traffic and wasted steps (very important in crowded hotels). It provides relevant info where and as it’s needed (example: event hours on the door as well as in the program book).

The ADAAG mandate copious signage that meets detailed legibility specifications (see links at end).

Sign design at conventions should be based on other high-traffic, high-stimulation environments, such as airports and hospitals.

How WisCon does signage[]

Here's the nitty gritty on how WisCon does signage:

Sign Types[]

Wayfinding signage that’s

1. easy to find: at predictable locations, right angles to the path of travel, suspended above the heads of the crowd so always in view

2. easy to read: super-legible high-contrast font and consistent layout

3. easy to understand: when possible, sign shows WisCon-specific, functional room names (for example, “Con Suite” instead of “Room 638.”) when possible, sign abbreviations are unique (for example, “C5” for conference room 5 is visually different than “CAP A” for Capital A.)

Wayfinding signs mark every space which a public member may need to know about:

  • programming rooms (panels, ballroom, speeches)
  • function rooms/spaces (reg desk, volunteer signup, bathrooms, art show, dealers’ room)
  • limited-access rooms (green room, kids’ programming)

Sign placement[]

  • At right angles to path of travel
  • High enough to avoid heads with high hats (bottom of sign at 8 ft)
  • Don’t mount inside alcove (would obscure distance reading)

Door signage that’s

1. as large as possible

2. as detailed as possible

Door signs explain activities that aren’t open 24/7. When the room is open for business, the door is opened to around 170°, so the sign posted on the “inside” of the door displays function and open hours. “Outside” door signs alert members that this is the function’s location & that it’s currently closed.

Place signs:

On face of door that’s visible during relevant hours.

No higher than 5 feet

Sign Content[]

The hotel’s own signage uses their room names. WisCon signs instead show our functional room labels. (For example, “Con suite” vs “room 638”, “art show” vs “University B-C-D”)

For overhead wayfinding, keep it short & unique, for example

Hotel provided sign = WisCon’s sign

Capitol Ballroom A = Cap A

Madison Ballroom (Dealer’s Room) = deal

Assembly = Ass’y

University BCD (Art Show) = Art

Conference 5 = c5

Reservations Manager (Quiet Place) = quiet

Conference Room 638 = con suite

For door signs, be expansive. In addition to “open” hours, list least-crowded hours.

Design issues[]

Choose a font to balance super legibility vs more characters per line (which permits less cryptic abbreviations). Use a well-designed, traditional bold condensed sans serif, with even type color, a large x-height, slight positive (4%) letterspacing.

Good choices: Helvetica Neue Bold Condensed; Myriad SemiCondensed Semibold; Univers 67 Bold Condensed; Frutiger 67 Bold Condensed

Fonts to avoid: Helvetica Narrow (too spindly); Optima or others with variable strokes; Antique Olive or others with angular/prickly counters; any serif or slab-serif family

Paper size

  • Balance cheap materials, easy manufacture and room to write things down
  • Standard 20# bond paper, printed landscape 11” by 8.5”, 9 x 6 inch live page
  • Overhead signs display the same information on both sides. Some door signs display the “open” info on one side and the closed info on the back.

Color coding

Type for adults is black. Color type for kids (pre-readers can still identify “sign with green letters.”) Maintain legibility with low-intensity pastel colors (also the cheapest).

Paper color indicates room type:

  • white: Program rooms where activities change during the con
  • buff: Constant-function spaces: consuite, dealers, art show, net access
  • salmon: Restricted rooms: green room, children’s programming, “closed” door signs
  • green: “open” door signs


All signs are printed on 20# bond and slipped into a sheet protector. Products listed at end. The sheet protectors can handle repeated applications of masking tape, last for several cons, cheaper & lower-carbon-load vs. laminating.

Wayfinding signs: Same text back-to-back in sheet protector. Suspended from pair of ceiling grid clips (ours supplied by hotel, cost $0.80/pair in 100 quantity). Concourse ceiling height is low enough we threaded the clip hooks directly into the two outer ring holes. For a taller ceiling, one could thread lightweight string through the 3-ring holes in sheet protector, then tie in loop. Suspend the loop in the ceiling clip hooks. Make string path trapezoidal to minimize sign spinning or twisting.

Door signs are affixed directly to door with masking tape. The open/closed signs are two sided in a sheet protector; the hours-open signs are single-sided in a sheet protector.

Production Calendar[]

Staffing & Skills

sign prep/layout: user skilled with word processor or light layout program. Use "keep next"/"keep lines together" styles to prevent endless futzing with page breaks.

printing & fabrication: output on correct paper color, slide into sheet protectors, sort by floor

mounting: 15 mins training: volunteer who can read, climb ladders, work with arms overhead

Timeline (given con last weekend in May)

early May: 8 hours

Get room names/functions/hours from hotel & programming staff

Develop unique abbreviations, assign paper color codes

Dry run with layout software, printer, construction

mid May: 3 hours

Confirm sign text drafts (doors with relevant area chairs; overheads with hotel + program)

no later than weekend before con: 12 hours print & fabricate. Slow inkjet ~5 signs/hour (10 sheets) due to heavy ink coverage; wiggling 20# bond into sheet protectors keeps one busy between print jobs.

Thursday PM at con: start mounting at sixth floor and work way down, around 3 staff hours required


ADA Signage Requirements (minimums only!)

Hardware for ceiling tile attachments Handi-Hooks, 1”

Sheet protectors C-Line CLI62029 Recycled Top Load Reduced Glare Sheet Protectors any office supply shop can order.