This is the fifth problematic incident that Chiu has encountered

The Singapore distributor of clothing retailer Zara has apologised to a blind woman for an incident where she was turned away at the Zara branch in Takashimaya Shopping Centre because she had a guide dog with her.

Cassandra Chiu, a counsellor, claims that as she tried to enter the shop with guide dog Esme, she was stopped and verbally abused by the security guard on duty. According to RSH Limited, the distributor, the security guard was not under their direct employment and has since been removed from his position.

“We sincerely apologise for the unpleasantness, disappointment and anger caused to Ms Cassandra Chiu, as well as members of the public.”

In order to clear up confusion, RSH Limited also confirmed that guide dogs and their owners are welcome at their stores. They branded this particular incident as an “unintentional misunderstanding”.

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Cassandra Chiu’s point of view

The 36-year-old stated that she was extremely upset about how the security guard behaved. According to her, the guard refused to accept any sort of explanations and kept insisting that no animals were allowed. Another woman who claimed to be the store manager then confirmed that no animals were allowed at the store, and even called the police and management staff at Takashimaya in.

Chiu also alleged that the guard was speaking loudly even when she asked him to lower his volume. Chiu accused the guard’s behaviour as being “no different from an animal”.

Netizens are not as convinced

There is usually large public support for the blind and their guide dogs to be more welcome, and Singapore has already taken steps to make our society more accessible. For example, guide dogs are now allowed on board buses from both SBS and SMRT.

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However, those who had seen the incident took to the internet to point out other factors that would have indicated that the security guard was not wholly at fault. According to them, there was another man with Cassandra Chiu at that time, and the man had behaved in an “aggressive, threatening manner”.

One alternative account said that all the security guard did was to politely tell Chiu that no animals were allowed in the shop. It was Chiu herself who flared up and called the guard an animal instead. Another account posted online claimed that the man who was accompanying Chiu was the one who said “you then dog ah”.

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Not the first time

A thread on forum Hardware Zone listed four other incidents that Chiu has been involved in; Forever 21, a taxi driver, McDonald’s and Haagen-Dazs. In those incidents, she either accuses the company of refusing entry to her guide dog or refusing to provide service.

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Chiu has no doubt been a vocal supporter and advocate of better rights for the blind community in Singapore. However, just like what the above comment says, too many of such incidents have seriously dented her image, and people now think that she just likes to stir up trouble and attract attention. And do we really need any more negativity and apprehension towards the visually impaired?

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Perhaps the guard might be able to get his job back if more of us speak out about how one-sided the Straits Times article was.

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With reference to The Straits Times, The Real Singapore