Reception areas

Reception is usually the first point where building users come into contact with staff. It is important that the facility meets their needs as it is likely to set the tone for the whole visit.

Building users in a public building may need to go to a point of contact to carry out the purpose of their visit. Reception should be logically positioned and easy to find.

Reception is usually where building users gather information, make decisions and commence their visit to the building.

When reception desks are high and the staff are sitting down they cannot be seen by wheelchair users. Often the low level portion is placed to the side of the desk, out of the circulation space allowing it to be quickly filled up with flowers, courier parcels and handout material. The desk should be designed with eye contact in mind with glazed screen or high level sections only installed where there are security concerns.

Providing helpful information

Information can be gathered from the environment, printed material, displays and staff and should be made available in a variety of forms to suit the needs of users and the function of the building.

Information that is available in printed or displayed form can reduce staff input. Printed material is especially useful as it can be referred to during the visit.

Electronic displays are dynamic and can respond quickly to changing circumstances. However, they need to be carefully positioned and can be hard for some users to read.

Information that is provided in print format should also be in accessible formats (tactile and auditory) where this is practical.

Waiting and seating areas

Not everyone is able to stand for any length of time. Waiting and seating areas within sight of Reception should be provided where this is anticipated.


Building users who have just arrived or who are waiting to speak to staff may need to use the toilet. Where appropriate, toilets should be provided in a publicly accessible location adjacent to Reception. While toilets in staff areas may be available they are not as convenient and generally require speaking to staff, which some building users may be reluctant to do.

Toilets should have contrasting features and accessible signage to locate and identify the facility (e.g. tactile print and pictograms).


Where building users are required to queue, a safe, logical, highly visible, accessible and understandable queueing system should be installed. This system should make provision for those who need to sit down or use toilets so they do not lose their place.

In existing buildings, a single queue may feed into multiple reception points. Where induction loops, lowered counters and adjacent seating are not provided at each of these points, or a specific staff member has to deal with a particular enquiry, procedures need to be established to ensure that users can be directed to appropriate positions.

Some users may want to use queueing barriers as a support. These need to be permanent and provide a handrail. Temporary barriers can cause injury as they are not structural and much more difficult to see especially for people with low impairment.

Roped or moving barriers are a hazard for those who are blind or have low vision and should be avoided as there should be a detectable feature to within 150 mm of the ground.

Communication with staff

The design, specification and layout of Reception counters needs to accommodate their use by all possible building users and staff, whether sitting or standing.

Where Reception desks are placed in front of a window, the light can cause problems for people with low vision.

Wheelchair users need knee space under a desk to be able to approach the counter head on, especially if they need to use the counter to write on.

People with hearing impairment may wish to lip read staff. Glazing between users and staff makes lip reading much more difficult. If there are light sources behind the receptionist, their face may be silhouetted, making visual communication and lip reading difficult.

Induction loops can greatly improve the listening environment for people using suitable hearing aids, especially in noisy environments. However, spillover occurs and therefore loops on adjacent desks may interfere with each other.

Speech enhancement systems can be very useful for people who cannot use induction loops.

Electronic displays are helpful when communicating information that may vary or include sums of money. They are of particular benefit to those whose main language is not English. However, they may be difficult if not impossible to see for people with low vision, especially if there is a source of light such as a window behind.

Some users will find the queueing environment stressful and others may not want to have discussions where they can be overheard. A quiet area away from noise and people will therefore be appreciated. Where it is appropriate, Wi-Fi connections should be made available and signs provided accordingly.

Signing in

Signing in to the building should be available to both standing and seated building users. Where visitors need to sign in by way of electronic displays, the presentation needs to be accessible, logical and easy to understand.

Some building users may not be able to use electronic displays due to vision loss or inability to comprehend. Electronic displays should include accessible modes such as audible responses and staff assistance should always be available without visitors having to ask.


Ticket barriers and turnstiles present a restriction that some building users may not be able to accommodate (for instance, wheelchair users, those with assistance dogs, building users with luggage or buggies, or those with limited mobility). Consequently, a conveniently located passing gate should be installed.

Avoid the use of turnstiles if possible to discourage segregation of those unable or unwilling to pass through.

Security gates should allow independent unrestricted use by all. The gate should contrast visually with the surrounding surface so that it is easy to identify.

Design considerations

  • Position reception points in logical locations where they are easy to locate and identify.
  • Ensure reception desks are low level counters where eye contact and interaction between wheelchair users and staff sitting down is easy. The position of lowered counters to one side of a high desk is not good design.
  • To reduce staff involvement, provide as much information as possible in accessible printed or display formats.
  • Define queueing lines by barriers with handrails and tapping rail firmly fixed to the floor with adequate space for people using wheelchairs or pushing buggies to turn around.
  • Consider temporary barriers (but utilising flush floor sockets or flush fixing plates) only when peak user flows are predictable.
  • Ensure queueing systems can be understood by all building users, including those with vision impairment, and will cater for building users needing to be seen at a specific desk.
  • Provide waiting and seating areas, and toilet facilities near Reception where possible.
  • Where lengthy interaction could be a requirement at a counter or desk, provide knee and toe space for wheelchair users.
  • Avoid the use of glazing between users and staff except where security issues dictate.
  • Ensure artificial lighting, natural lighting and background designs and colours are specified to assist the lip reading environment.
  • Where appropriate obtain technical advice to design induction loops and speech enhancement installations for counters.
  • Install visible displays where specific or changing information needs to be communicated.
  • Provide a quiet area near Reception large enough for wheelchair access and an interpreter or companion.
  • Provide Wi-Fi access where appropriate.
  • Ensure train stations and other passenger terminals have tactile warnings before the ticket gates and directional tactile information (if they are difficult to locate).
  • Avoid the installation of turnstiles where possible.
  • Ensure suitable sized passing gates are easy to identify and are positioned immediately adjacent to the ticket barrier or turnstiles.
  • Ensure electronic displays used to sign visitors in are accessible to those standing or seated, are easy to read and operate, do not reflect the lights and are monitored by staff in case assistance is required.
  • Ensure wayfinding information is available to direct building users to their next destination.

Building Code requirement

Building Code clause G5 Interior environment:

G5.3.4 Where reception counters or desks are provided for public use, at least one counter or desk shall be accessible. Performance G5.3.4 applies only to communal residential, communal non-residential, and commercial buildings.

G5.3.5 Buildings shall be provided with listening systems which enable enhanced hearing by people with hearing aids. Performance G5.3.5 applies only to: (a) communal non-residential assembly spaces occupied by more than 250 people, and (b) any theatre, cinema, or public hall

G5.3.6 Enhanced listening systems shall be identified by signs complying with Clause F8 Signs.

Building Code clause F8 Signs:

F8.2 Signs must be provided in and about buildings to identify: (d) accessible routes and facilities for people with disabilities.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: