Café In Hougang Allegedly Asks Paralympian With Guide Dog To Sit Outside
For some with visual impairments, their guide dogs are essential for their daily lives.
Recently, Singapore paralympic swimmer Sophie Soon shared an unpleasant experience she had with her guide dog at the Rocky Master outlet in Hougang.
Staff at the café apparently asked them to sit outside the eatery, as per instructions from the management.
Rocky Master has since released a statement saying that they strive to create a comfortable environment for all diners.
Paralympian with guide dog unhappy with Hougang Rocky Master
On Wednesday (8 Mar), Ms Soon posted a 48-second video on Facebook showing a Rocky Master employee speaking on the phone. The employee appears to be clarifying the operational procedure regarding the issue.
At the start, she directly addressed Ms Soon and apologised before informing her that she had to sit outside with her guide dog.
After which, voices behind the camera immediately could be heard saying “no.”
An older woman’s voice, reportedly belonging to Ms Soon’s mother, then asked, “Why are you discriminating against a guide dog?”.
Afterwards, she asserted that guide dogs are approved and allowed in all restaurants by Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) and the “Ministry of Environment”.
The employee relayed her assertion and proceeded to end the call.
Ms Soon then asked the employee what would happen if she posted the video, to which the latter replied that they would file a police report.
Paralympian calls out Singapore businesses for discrimination
The Paralympic swimmer also penned a lengthy caption lamenting the apparent ignorance of businesses in Singapore.
Sharing her frustrations, she argued that guide dog users deserve to be treated better — especially since they are “grow [ing] in numbers”.
Apart from Facebook, Ms Soon also addressed the issue in a follow-up video on TikTok.
@sophsoon #stitch with @Sophie 🏊🏼♀️🦮💙 This is happening way too frequently. I’m as sick of talking about this like a broken recorder as you are probably of seeing me on your feed. We need to take guide dog laws way more seriously. #guidedogs #accessibility #tiktoksg ♬ original sound – Sophie 🏊🏼♀️🦮💙
In the video, she expressed that ground staff should not be the “only ones taking the fall”.
Ms Soon then urged “management” to take responsibility for educating their staff.
Addressing her audience, Ms Soon highlighted that these incidents happen to guide dog users often but they usually go unannounced.
Rocky Master says they have to be mindful of other customers
Following the incident, Rocky Master released a statement on Instagram.
In response to the discrimination allegations, Rocky Master stated that they “strive to serve diners from all walks of life”.
The café then clarified that the business also has to be thoughtful towards other customers who may not be comfortable with “certain dining environments”.
Citing Singapore Food Association (SFA) and MUIS, the business stated that guide dogs should be leashed and seated outdoors “where possible”.
Additionally, Rocky Master commended the actions of the employee in the video, saying she responded well under pressure.
Singapore should work towards an inclusive society
This is not the first time Ms Soon has documented her run-ins with similar “uneducated” parties.
Back in 2020, Ms Soon was allegedly denied entry to an undisclosed Subway outlet.
Subway Customer With Guide Dog Denied Entry, Brand Promises To Educate Staff
The sandwich restaurant later issued an apology and promised to educate their staff.
In Singapore where guide dogs are not very commonly seen in public, there may be certain misconceptions that need to be addressed.
That said, we hope Ms Soon and other guide dog users will soon observe a change in public perceptions.
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Featured image adapted from Sophie Soon on Facebook and Chio.Space on Google Maps.
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