The toilets at the Utah State Capitol are intended to be sat upon, as a series of new restroom signs aimed primarily at Asian tourists makes clear.
Illustrated diagrams in the stalls of the Capitol’s ground-floor and rotunda bathrooms depict two figures using the facilities: one seated upright with their feet on the floor — the preferred method — and another perched in a squatting position with their feet above the toilet seat, labeled with a red “X” and the word “No”.
“The lids and the seats are just not designed to bear the weight of an adult body,” said Rachel Parkinson, visitor services manager for the Capitol Preservation Board.
Signs were installed in early July, Parkinson said, in response to increased wear-and-tear on bathroom facilities.
The number of large tour groups visiting the Utah Capitol has increased in recent years, Parkinson said, including guests from China and other nations where a squatted position is the norm for bathroom use.
While great for Utah’s tourism industry, Parkinson said the increased international interest has correlated with broken toilet seats and damaged fixtures.
"We want to make sure that we are able to meet the needs of all of our visitors,” she said, “and keep our facilities in good working condition so they’re available for everyone.”
The updates at the State Capitol follow similar moves at Utah’s national parks. Signs instructing guests to sit on toilets and to refrain from defecating on the floor were posted at Arches and Canyonlands last year, and both parks have begun installing bathrooms with a squatting option for visitors.
John Lewis, chief of maintenance for both parks, said three squat toilets have been placed at Arches’ Island in the Sky Visitor Center, with a fourth planned for later this month at Sand Dune Arch.
He said future bathroom replacements at Arches and Canyonlands will be double-stalled, with a traditional — and Americans With Disabilities Act compliant — above-ground toilet on one side and a squatting area on the other.
He also credited the changes to an uptick in Asian tourism at the national parks.
“It’s a cultural thing,” Lewis said. “We can put up all the signs we want but we‘re not going to change their cultural attitude.”
Before the squatting toilets were installed, Lewis said the larger crowds from tour buses had led to an increase in fecal material left on bathroom floors and the sides of toilets as people attempted to stand on handrails or toilet seats to avoid sitting down.
“It‘s a big effort just to keep those vault toilets cleaned,” he said. “They don’t want to touch the riser.”
At the Capitol, Parkinson said there are no current plans to replace seated toilets with squatting models. But she added that the comfort of visitors is important, and additional changes to bathrooms could occur if needed.
“I wouldn‘t take anything off the table,” she said, “but at this time we’re giving the signs a chance to see how they are received.”