Move for guide dogs for the blind
Writer: Lee Choon Fai
Published: Fri, 27 Jul 2012
AMPANG: To create a more disabled-friendly environment for the blind, the Malaysia Glaucoma Society (MGS) is undertaking efforts to promote the use of guide dogs.
Ong (left) and Chan say it is time to make Malaysia more accessible for the disabled.
The society’s president and founder, Stevens Chan, said visually-impaired Malaysians have to rely on their walking stick, hearing and their relatives or friends to guide them.
“It is difficult for blind or low vision Malaysians to gain independence and some semblance of normal life in this country,” he said during a press conference.
Guide dogs could help blind individuals be more mobile, be independent and, in the process, also gain self-confidence.
However, Chan said there were currently no guide dogs in Malaysia as public facilities were very restrictive when it comes to animals.
This is in stark contrast with Singapore, which in 2005 amended the Environmental Public Health Act and allowed guide dogs to access all public spaces.
“There are no restrictions in Singapore, guide dogs are allowed to go everywhere. The owner can bring it along to get on trains, buses, or even just to have a drink in a nearby restaurant,” said Chan.
This is due to the fact that guide dogs are considered as working dogs instead of pets, and the public must also be educated before guide dogs are allowed in public facilities.
To push the agenda, MGS launched the “Dogs for Sight” campaign at the Giat Community Centre in Taman Teratai in hopes of getting 100,000 signatures and donations in support of the movement.
The campaign includes an event where members of the public can bring their dogs to run in an open field in Desa ParkCity’s Sports Centre.
All donations generated from the campaign will then be used to bring in Malaysia’s first guide dog for the blind.
“We want to bring in the first guide dog to Malaysia, so we decided to bring in a Singaporean team (of a blind man and his guide dog) to show Malaysians how a real guide dog team works,” said Chan.
The team, Kua Cheng Hock and his partner, a docile Golden Retriever named Kendra, flew in from Singapore just yesterday with his dog taking a passenger seat along with him.
The reception however, was less than ideal in Malaysia as he was denied access to the KLIA Express and was harassed by security guards.
An exception was later made when several foreign tourists defended Kua and Kendra from the guards, but he was cautioned to not bring a dog on the train again.
“Guide dogs are very well-trained and they will not cause any trouble to others, look how quiet she is,” said Kua as he gestured to Kendra, who remained silent during the hour-long press conference.
While there is a religious barrier to overcome in Malaysia, Kua said it is very much possible as Singapore’s Islamic Religious Council (MUIS) had approved the use of guide dogs.
“They said Islam is a religion of kindness and they gave their full support, guide dogs are even allowed in halal restaurants in Singapore,” he said.
Kua received Kendra from the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) free of charge when she was two and they have been working together for seven years since.
Pandan member of Parliament Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said although the government had taken several measures to make public facilities more disabled-friendly, more still needed to be done.
“We may have done several things in the past few years, but the visually-impaired may have been neglected.
“The facilities to accommodate them are inadequate, and we should seriously look into this matter,” he said.
For example, he said our buses lack audio notifications so that blind people are aware of where the bus is stopping, and also cited the lack of accommodation for guide dogs.
Ong said all relevant authorities such as the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), Islamic religious authorities, several Federal ministries and all local councils must be approached for discussion regarding the matter and it would take some time.
“It is imperative, and it is time to instill in the public that the disabled need to be facilitated; guide dogs should be given a place in public,” he said.
For more information about the “Dogs for Sight” campaign, call Chan at 012-2035410.