One of the greatest impacts of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been making public spaces more accessible to all people, regardless of physical ability.
Title III of the ADA requires “spaces of public accommodation” to be accessible and navigable for people with physical disabilities.
One way to make public and private spaces more accessible is with detectable warning surfaces. These surfaces—most often tiles made of plastics, porcelain, steel, or cast iron—alert people with disabilities of potential danger from a roadway, and they aid with navigation. They’re designed to be easily seen or felt through the soles of most shoes or noticed by a visually impaired person using a white cane for guidance.
The ADA requires detectable warning tiles at all intersections where a sidewalk enters or leaves a motorway—for example, where the sidewalk in front of a retail or grocery store meets the parking lot. The tiles are also required at the edges of boarding platforms for trains and subways.
Originally developed to help the visually impaired to safely navigate streets and public venues, detectable warning tiles are now required in every municipality.
There are different types of warning tiles and surfaces, which we explore below.
Radius Tactile Systems
Radius or curved tactile warning systems typically feature raised domes in a square grid pattern. Radius systems are designed to follow the contour of sidewalk curbs, curb ramps, and other curved surfaces. They warn people when they’re close to the edge of a roadway or another potential hazard.
People using a wheelchair or walker and those who are visually impaired can feel the raised domes beneath their feet or detect them under their wheelchair. Radius systems can be installed in one of two ways: set in wet concrete or surface applied.
Replaceable Cast-in-Place Systems
Cast-in-place tactile warning systems are designed to be easily embedded into fresh concrete. The pre-assembled panels come with a heavy-duty anchoring system that secures the panels into the ground.
The cast-in-place replaceable panels by ADA Solutions are designed with recessed fixtures on the backside to ensure the panel can be embedded two inches into the concrete. As the name suggests, they are easy to replace when installed according to specifications.
Permanent Cast-in-Place Systems
Designed for use in new constructions or new curb ramps, permanent cast-in-place systems are highly durable and meant to be a long-term solution for any project or climate.
The permanent cast-in-place panels by ADA Solutions are made with a durable exterior homogenous glass, carbon, and fiberglass-reinforced composite material for superior structural support.
Surface Applied Systems
Surface applied warning panels are ideal for retrofitting an existing concrete surface or for use during new construction.
ADA Solutions offers rectangular and curved (radius) surface tiles. ADA’s surface applied pavers are designed with beveled edges for a smooth, safe transition.
Cast Iron Tactile Plate Systems
Built to stand the test of time and all-weather situations, cast iron tactile plates are designed to be used as a detectable warning surface for curb ramps and transitions between the sidewalk and street.
The iron plates by ADA Solutions are intended to be installed flush with the cement and anchored via bolts, washers, and screws.
Replaceable Graphic Tile Systems
Graphic tile systems are designed to provide both tactile sensations and visual information. They are fully customizable and can be imprinted with symbols and written messages (e.g., “Board here”) in different colors and fonts.
Wayfinding Surface Products
Wayfinding tiles help direct people with visual impairments safely between spaces. They’re used in a variety of locations, including shopping malls, transit stations, sidewalks and outdoor walkways, and near elevators and escalators.
The directional bar and guide surface tiles by ADA Solutions are made of durable, weather-resistant materials and are designed to be installed on a concrete substrate.
Photoluminescent systems provide emergency light after a power failure or a sudden loss of light. They’re not dependent on any power source—rather, they are charged by ambient light. They provide pedestrians with emergency visual cues and enhance emergency preparedness.
Glow-Dome, ADA Solutions’ photoluminescent system, is available in replaceable, retrofit transit, and paver tiles.
Become ADA-Compliant by Installing Detectable Warning Tiles
Detectable warning surfaces aren’t just a nicety—they’re a necessity required by law in all municipalities today. Public and private businesses with 15 or more employees must be ADA-compliant. This includes retail outlets, grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, theaters, banks, hospitals and doctor’s offices, and other organizations that serve the public.
The fines for ADA-noncompliance can be steep—up to $75,000 for an initial violation and up to $150,000 for subsequent violations.
Even if your business isn’t currently ADA-compliant, making even small changes now can help make your business more accessible and inclusive.
ADA Solutions is the leading manufacturer of detectable warning surface products in the U.S. For more than 20 years, we have provided long-lasting detectable warning systems—including replaceable cast-in-place dry and wet tile, ADA warning mats, and more—to contractors, engineers, architects, and distributors. Learn more about our products.