Guide dog activist Zara row quits

Guide dog activist Zara row quits

Guide dog activist Cassandra Chiu has left her part-time position as client services manager at the Guide Dogs Association of the Blind (GDAB).

Ms Chiu, a 35-year-old psychotherapist, was meant to be an ambassador in that role.

Her resignation comes in the wake of a blow-up at fashion store Zara at Takashimaya Shopping Centre on April 10. She and her guide dog Esme were allegedly turned away by a security guard and staff.

Ms Chiu turned to social media to tell her story.

After the incident, the security guard, contracted through a security firm, was removed from his position at the store.

APOLOGY

RSH Limited, Singapore's distribution and retail arm for clothing and accessories chain Zara, also apologised to Ms Chiu.

GDAB also sent a letter to The Straits Times' Forum page, saying that it would also "be investigating the incident".

Within hours of the letter's publication on Thursday, Ms Chiu resigned from her position at the association.

Speaking to The New Paper, the chairman of the GDAB, Dr Francis Seow Choen, said the association remains committed to the cause of providing training for the use of guide dogs and facilitating their use in Singapore.

"The resignation of Cassandra (Chiu) came at a time when the board was reassessing client services at GDAB as we are committed to good practices.

"However, her leaving is not related to the incident at the fashion store Zara," he said.

The incident at Zara was not Ms Chiu's first run-in with retail and restaurant businesses.

Ms Chiu, who owns a business at Tanglin Shopping Centre, where she counsels young people, had similar issues earlier with stores like Forever 21, McDonald's and Haagen-Dazs.

She posted about the incidents on social media. 

She could not be reached for comment.

Others with guide dogs also find it difficult taking them into taxis and restaurants. Mr Alvin Ng, 49, has had similar experiences with his guide dog Seretta.

"We react to how people tell us to leave the premises. If they are nice, we comply, but sometimes people do get nasty. Yet, the pressure is on us to project a positive impression in the public eye," said Mr Ng, who is visually handicapped.

Freelance writer Lim Lee Lee, 47, chooses to "vote with her feet".

"I am not confrontational. I also see no point arguing and certainly no point going to social media.

"If Nice (her guide dog) and I are not welcome at a certain restaurant, then I would leave quietly and take my business to where we are," she said.

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