How to Make a Reception Counter Meet Code
There are two types of receptionist workstations, which require different spatial requirements. Counter height and desk height are determined as a result of how the workstation height affects the visitor approaching it.
The counter height option is ideal for basic transactions but would prove difficult when trying to design an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible reception to meet codes since it would require an additional, lower space that could appear to be an afterthought. The desk height reception desk then becomes the most functional reception counter when accommodating disabled customers because of the potential for a seamless, integrated design. Initially, the visitor side of the reception counter is the most important because this is where the visitor approaches and requires the most accessibility in order to properly complete a transaction. Providing ideal functionality requires attention to five key dimensional necessities.
The counter height dimension is measured from the surface of the finished floor to the top of the reception counter and should be no higher than 36 inches, leaving it within reaching range for the visitor. In addition, a portion of the counter shall be at least 36 inches long to allow for ease of movement during the transaction.
Similar to kitchen cabinets and millwork, all built-in spaces require what is called a toe kick. This 8-inch space, measured vertically, from the finished floor will provide an enclosure for feet and wheelchair foot rests that will enable the visitor to get closer to the reception counter. In addition to the vertical 8-inch measurement, the toe kick is to cut into the reception desk by 4 inches horizontally.
A typical reception desk configuration will always require a standing zone for the person actively participating in a transaction at the counter, as well as a circulation zone behind for those wishing to walk past. This crucial measurement becomes more important when ADA accessibility is involved. A wheelchair turning diameter is 60 inches as a standard, but it breaks down into a minimum of a 24-inch standing zone and a minimum 30-inch circulation zone. Therefore, a 54- to 60-inch combined standing and circulation zone is ideal.
The desk height should be measured from the finished floor to the underside of the desktop. Desk height is a direct correlation to the overall counter height and therefore needs to be comparable. Above the desk top should be a measurement of 10 to 12 inches to reach the transaction counter overhang. This provides a private nook underneath the overhang for any monetary transactions or the handling of confidential paperwork.
Keeping all dimensional relationships within proportion, the receptionist's seat height should also be taken into consideration. Measuring from the finished floor to the underside of the ergonomic chair, the desired dimension should be no more than 15 to 18 inches, which will provide ideal sight lines to the visitor approaching the counter.
Notoriously, reception desks are known for providing way finding, customer care, communication, and advertisement of an organizations' desired corporate image. ADA compliant is not a commonly used statement when envisioning most reception desks and is not only a crucial element, but a commonly overlooked one. Desired to look attractive, reception desks are the first and last areas of transaction between visitor and corporation, but the prime target should be to function properly as well. Keep these five measurements in mind when designing a reception station and the product will be a satisfying experience for all clients that pass through the door.
Landrie Daniels, a graduate of Texas State University, received her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design with a minor in building technology. A LEED AP certification enhances her ability to write design related how-to articles for Demand Studios. Landrie was recently published in the travel section of the Houston Chronicle and on msnbc.com, a product of her three years of published writing.