Social acceptance needed for guide dogs, handlers

Social acceptance needed for guide dogs, handlers

SINGAPORE - I support Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam's call for clearer regulations to support the integration of the blind and their guide dogs into society ("Shanmugam calls for clearer rules on guide dogs"; Dec 7).

There needs to be a positive framework on guide dogs and their handlers, in which religious sensitivities are considered, and increased public education and awareness.

The public must understand that guide dogs are not pet dogs.

Guide dogs are more disciplined and serve the blind daily as their navigators, warning them of obstacles in the environment, which is more functional than using a cane.

The Guide Dogs Association of the Blind issues an identity pass that informs people that a guide dog has the right to enter public places without restrictions, which essentially means that the handler and his guide dog must be treated as one entity.

Guide dogs and their handlers face a lot of stigma and misunderstanding.

Many Singaporeans have the misconception that animals are dirty and should not be allowed in public establishments. However, they should see the value in allowing the blind person to be accompanied by a guide dog.

Some halal-certified eateries have already made the exception in allowing guide dogs on the premises. Schools should educate the young with demonstrations on how a guide dog assists its handler. Perhaps role playing could also be included.

By placing themselves in the shoes of others, students will better understand the difficulties the blind face. With positive government support and enforcement, I am confident the public will come to accept guide dogs and their handlers as part of our society.

Darren Chan Keng Leong

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