Tommy Koh Calls Out Hougang Café For Not Welcoming Guide Dog, Urges Inclusivity

Tommy Koh Calls Out Rocky Master At Hougang For Discriminating Against Paralympian & Guide Dog

Guide dogs in Singapore have once again become a major topic of discussion following an alleged case of discrimination against a Paralympian and her guide dog.

Tommy Koh guide dog

Source: Sophie Soon on Facebook

A video of an exchange between her and a staff member at a Rocky Master outlet in Hougang, captured the athlete’s reaction after she was apparently not allowed to sit inside the eatery with her guide dog.

The incident sparked a heated debate online, with some saying this proves a greater need for inclusivity and awareness, and others calling out Ms Soon for not speaking to the staff appropriately.

Now, Singapore’s former diplomat Tommy Koh has added his two cents as well by calling on Singaporeans to welcome the visually impaired and their guide dogs to their premises.

Tommy Koh emphasises that guide dogs are a blind person’s eyes

In a Facebook post yesterday (10 Mar), Mr Koh voiced his support for Ms Soon and her guide dog.

Tommy Koh guide dog

Source: Tommy Koh on Facebook

He reiterated that a guide dog is a working dog rather than a pet dog.

He added that the recognition was hard-fought, as he and the nonprofit organisation Guide Dogs Singapore had worked for years to convince the Government, the private sector, and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS).

Source: Tommy Koh on Facebook

Mr Koh then emphasised that guide dogs are the eyes of a blind person, making them essential.

With that, he expressed how sorry he was to learn about the incident at the Rocky Master outlet.

Concluding his post, he issued a request to Singaporeans to welcome their “blind compatriots” and their guide dogs to their premises.

Statement divides netizens

Like Ms Soon’s video, Mr Koh’s stance on the issue divided netizens.

Some were in agreement, with one suggesting that it may be time to introduce a bill outlawing discrimination against differently-abled people.

The commenter also disagreed with the stance that having guide dogs on public premises goes against “societal and cultural norms”. They explained that this would imply the same about those who need such assistance.

Mr Koh concurred, highlighting that Korea deems it illegal to deny entry to visually impaired people and guide dogs.

Source: Facebook

Another user expressed their disappointment with the Government while applauding Mr Koh for doing his part for the people.

Tommy Koh guide dog

Source: Facebook

At the same time, there were those who thought Ms Soon could have approached the matter differently, calling her “aggressive”.

In their view, the employee was not discriminating against her but simply following protocol.

Nevertheless, they also felt that Rocky Master’s statement on the situation seemed “one-sided”.

Tommy Koh guide dog

Source: Facebook

Such sentiments about Ms Soon’s response were echoed by another user, who felt that the Paralympian was telling the staff off rather than educating them.

Source: Facebook

While some acknowledged that her reaction wasn’t ideal, they justified that Ms Soon probably acted that way out of frustration.

Source: Facebook

This Facebook user, for instance, guessed that the athlete probably had had enough of such issues plaguing her life and probably let out her pent-up exasperation.

Through all of the contrasting views, a few remained neutral, like this commenter who stressed the need for understanding from both sides.

Tommy Koh guide dog

Source: Facebook

Inclusivity is key to a better Singapore

The discourse around this incident shows there is still a lot of work to be done towards inclusivity in Singapore.

We hope this discussion leads to more awareness and understanding from all sides, so that such events may one day become the exception instead of the norm.

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Featured image adapted from Tommy Koh on Facebook and Sophie Soon on Facebook.

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