ADA, Engineering, and Permitting Forums at ISA Event

ISA ADA Forums
Photo: Clarke Systems

Working in a small segment of a niche industry like the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry can be lonely. But everything changes when there are more of you in one room. There’s camaraderie, networking, and an ability to solve common issues.

That’s why ISA International Sign Expo 2024, taking place April 10-12 in Orlando, Florida, will include three forums—one for those who work in ADA signs, one for engineers, and a new event for those who specialize in permitting.

“In my small world, ADA fabrication is all we do,” said Mike Shabluk, owner of Erie Custom Signs. “The ADA forum serves as an opportunity for all of us to get together and hear what’s new, what’s happening on regulation and rules.”

Over the last few years, that has meant updates to ISA’s work on influencing the International Code Committee and ANSI standards on sign colors and legibility.

“This forum is the most up-to-date information within a group of people that live in this world every day,” said Charlie Kelly, owner and president of Clarke Systems. “It’s always the case where a heads up is of great value. If coming changes have some implications on the manufacturing process or our publications, brochures, and technical documentation, every bit of the advance warning is helpful.”

Kelly points out that laws and guidelines can be subject to interpretation and having the industry come together to discuss those nuances and questions can help with guidance.

It also helps introduce those in the ADA world to other vendors and fabricators. “ISA gives us a voice that, as an individual company, we do not have,” said Shabluk, “and gives individual companies a national stage we wouldn’t be able to have on our own.”

The ADA forum was a new event in 2023, and both Shabluk and Kelly hope it grows in 2024.

The engineering forum has been around a bit longer (since 2022) and grew out of work that a team of engineers did to create ISA guidance on wind loads and freestanding signs.

“The engineers and others that were on that committee got to know each other,” said Louis Cortana of MBI Companies. “That went a long way for me, in knowing I am doing the right job or making other contacts, in case I couldn’t do something.”

When the research was completed, the engineers would occasionally network at ISA Sign Expo but not formally.

“I thought it would be a good idea to keep the networking going,” said Cortana. “Sign engineering is a little niche in engineering. Any structural engineer can do it—but to do it efficiently, you have to do it a lot.”

The engineering forum, then, will offer updates on code changes as well as a time for engineers to get together and discuss what they’re seeing in the field.

Those who work to secure sign permits—this includes sign permit expeditors, project managers, or anyone dealing with local permitting requirements—will also get an opportunity to connect, thanks to  a new ISA Permitters Forum. This forum will discuss working successfully with local governments to get your customers the signs they need.

The International Sign Association’s advocacy team will also be found in The Hub answering your specific sign code questions. Once onsite, look for the specific days and times and make sure to stop by, even if it is just to say “hello.”

Making connections with those who work in heavily regulated areas like ADA and engineering or those who need to get sign projects successfully permitted—which really is all of us—can pay off throughout the year.

“I find it comforting that we have a watchdog like ISA looking out for us and bringing the most up-to-date information,” said Kelly. “Having a group discussion or finding common ground is just invaluable.”

I hope to see you at ISA International Sign Expo 2024 in Orlando, April 10-12, with a pre-conference day on April 9. There is much more planned than codes and regulations, but I can promise you that all sessions will be informative and equip you to make decisions to help your business grow.

David Hickey is vice president of Government Affairs at the International Sign Association.