How To Design a Reception Area that Welcomes People of All Sizes

Written by Rebecca Alexander.

For business owners and office managers, creating a warm and welcoming reception area is an important part of the job. From dentist offices to salons, waiting areas are where customers form first impressions of your business. According to recent survey conducted by AllGo, one in three Americans report encountering places where they don’t fit. Don’t let your establishment be a place where plus-size people feel like their business isn’t appreciated.

Which begs the question, what are the qualities of a reception area that is welcoming to people of all sizes?

Spacious Layout

The first quality of a plus-friendly reception area is an accessible room layout. Doorways into the room should be wide and tall enough to comfortably get through and clear of any obstruction or decor, and should allow for mobility equipment that is larger than standard size. Pathways to seating in the reception area should also be clear and provide adequate room to freely move through them, even when chairs and sofas are occupied. There should also be enough space between chairs and benches so people can sit without touching their neighbors. Don’t forget about these principles when you add plants, tables, and other decorations to your designs!

Plus-Friendly Seating Options

The next quality of a plus-friendly reception area is a variety of seating options. Seating should have more than one sturdy, comfortable armless chairs (the exact number will depend on your space and traffic). Chair seats should be at least 18 inches high if they have a firm cushion and 20+ inches if the cushion is soft. We recommend chairs with seats that are level or near-level and whose backs are mostly upright. Providing a sturdy bench for customers to use is also a good option. Spread them out within the room so a person can choose to sit closer or further from the exit, depending on their preference and comfort level. All the seating options in a reception area, decor wise, should appear the same and blend in with the other seating in the room.

Size Diversity Everywhere

The last quality of a plus-friendly reception area is an availability and range of sizes in company collateral, merchandise, and art. Models in company brochures should reflect the diversity of the clientele it serves. If clothing is sold, a range of standard and plus sizes should be available on site. The same goes for personal care equipment or any other size-specific merchandise. And finally, art depicting people in the space should include wide range of body sizes.

If you keep these qualities in mind, your reception area will be a positive and affirming experience for plus-size people, making it more likely for them to return and share their positive experience with others!


About the Author

Rebecca Alexander is the Founder of AllGo and the author of A Kids Book About Body Image. Rebecca believes that being fat isn’t something she needs to change. She works to help others free themselves from the harmful bias that exists in our society. Her work is equal parts creativity and technology. Rebecca lives in Portland, Oregon with her Lhasa Apso, Lucy.

Follow on IG: @portlandrebecca | Follow on Twitter: @portlandrebecca

3 thoughts on “How To Design a Reception Area that Welcomes People of All Sizes

  1. I’d also suggest at least 1 "counter height" wider stool and perhaps a seat or two that is lower than 18". Some people with mobility issues have trouble rising from a lower seat, and some shorter people have trouble with higher seats. AND, if you are providing tables, please ensure that at least some can be used by people seated in a wheelchair (a side table can work if there is room for legs to roll under the top).

  2. Absolutely right! And I was very pleased when my PCP (who owns her own practice) added three extra-wide “bariatric” chairs and one sofa-style seat to her waiting area without my prompting her! Contrast that with the opposite kind of size-unfriendly seating in many waiting rooms, often serving very large medical practices.

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