Extract from the Human Rights Commission website: © Australian Human Rights Commission

Reception desks and counters

Importance of the feature

While not an issue covered by the BCA many reception desks and counters are far too high for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs or for people who are of short stature.


Many people who use a wheelchair are unable to approach a reception desk/counter side on and turn to face the receptionist due to their disability, hence the need for design to allow for a frontal approach. In some cases where the task to be undertaken at the counter involves only the passing of cash and receipt of goods the fully recessed area may not be required.

The lowering of a section of the reception desk allows people to communicate and complete transactions, such as signing credit card dockets or receipts, in a comfortable and dignified manner.

Code reference

AS 1428.2 specifies technical details such as dimensioning, and design criteria.

Compliant reception desk
Photo 1

Photo 1 shows a well-designed and constructed reception desk

Achieving best results

To be effective reception counters must be within the design criteria set out in AS1428.2.

This is achieved by ensuring the desk or counter:

  • Is within the required height range, which is between 830 mm and 870 mm from the floor surface to the top of the desk or counter.
  • Allows for a frontal approach.
  • Provides adequate knee and toe plate clearances under the counter.
  • Is the minimum width of 800mm as set out by the standard.

Common problems and misinterpretations

1. Counters too high or no provision made for a frontal approach

Reception counter too high

Photo 2

Counter with lowered section but no front approach

Photo 3

Multiple counters, none accessible

Photo 4

Counter needs front section lowered

Photo 5

Photo 2 shows a recently refurbished hotel reception that could have had a section of the reception counter lowered and made accessible while maintaining the style and ambience.

The counter in photo 3 has a lowered section but no provision is made for a frontal approach.

Photo 4 shows five reception counters of which one could have been made accessible. Photo 5 is a counter in a coffee shop that would only have needed the front section lowered to allow for ease of payment and receipt of goods.

Counter accessible with front approach
Photo 6

Counter accessible with front approach
Photo 7

Photos 6, 7 and 8 show reception desks and counters that allow for a frontal approach with adequate toe plate and knee space and have a suitable surface height.

Counter accessible with front approach
Photo 8