Outing to Botanic Gardens marred by way guide dogs were treated

I had joined a small group outing, which included three blind men and their guide dogs, to the Singapore Botanic Gardens during the Hari Raya Haji holiday.

Unfortunately, it started to rain and a large crowd sought shelter at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage. But a security guard told most of the dog owners to leave the stage, saying that the stage was expensive and could not be damaged. The rain had not stopped completely but we, including the blind people with guide dogs, obliged.

When it began to rain heavily again, we sought shelter, this time, at the National Orchid Garden.

At the Orchid Garden, we were once again told to leave by the security personnel there. Only after we demanded to speak to the management did they relent.

I dread to think of the consequences had any of the blind men slipped and fallen in their haste to escape the rain. Would their potential injuries and hospital bills be any less expensive than the cost of the stage?

How can the Botanic Gardens profess to be a UnescoWorld Heritage site if it fails to support the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted by the United Nations in 2006?

The aim of the convention is to create societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory for all its citizens.

Doesn't the management bother to train its staff to differentiate between a guide dog and a pet dog?

Allowing a guide dog for the blind to enter is not a "privilege". It is a civil and human right.

Guide dogs serve as their owners' eyes, granting people who are blind greater independence and the ability to travel efficiently and safely.

Denying guide dogs entry is akin to banning those using aids such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes or hearing aids from patronising these places.

Our outing was marred not by the rain but more by the words of the security guards.

How can we aspire to be a gracious and inclusive society when we cannot even accommodate blind people and their obedient guide dogs?

It is time the relevant authorities stepped in to tackle this.

Chan Cheh Miun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'Outing to Botanic Gardens marred by way guide dogs were treated'. Print Edition | Subscribe