Sunday, July 27, 2014

Guide dogs for the blind in Malaysia

 Sometimes it just takes one incident to shine a harsh spotlight on how unevolved we are as a society. In this case it was a simple experiment undertaken by a man on a mission to provide sight and mobility to the blind via guide dogs.

The man in question is Stevens Chan the founder of Malaysia Glaucoma Society (MGS) who took his guide dog Lashawn - who is Malaysia's first and only guide dog for the blind (A professionally trained labrador who is the first ever guide dog permitted in the country) to a mall in an exercise to gauge public response as part of Chan's Dogs for Sight Campaign.


What happened during that exercise was reported in the malay mail online on May 24, 2014 and outraged netizens when the article made its rounds on social media.

Man's best friend not loved by everyone

Besides being asked to leave the mall, Chan was also unable to get a cab home because the drivers insisted that animals were not allowed in cabs. What followed next was a flurry of conflicting statements from several parties - all of which leaves blind Malaysians who wish for mobility in limbo.

On May 28, 2014 the malay mail online reported that Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has said there should not be a problem with allowing guide dogs to assist the disabled in using public transportation. He added that it was only a question of getting the public to get used to it.


The same article quoted KTM Berhad corporate communications manager Siti Badariah Wan Hanafi as saying that although KTM did not allow any type of animal to go on board its trains, it would adhere to SPAD’s guidelines, should the commission allow guide dogs.

RapidKL however said it would not allow guide dogs on board its rail (LRT) and bus services. Reason being it would cause uneasiness or anxiety among its passengers.

Read more about it here
SPAD says guide dogs can ride on public transport

On May 29, 2014, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi added a further spoke in the wheel when he said SPAD’s regulations should not conflict with city regulations set by local authorities.

He also surprisingly said that guide dogs could actually prove to be an inconvenience for the blind.

“What if the dog pees in a bus or in the train? Who will clean up the mess? I fear the other commuters might get angry with the disabled owner,” he was quoted as saying.

The lack of understanding inherent in that statement confounded many netizens who took to social media to express their ire at the deputy minister's lack of understanding and inability to see the difference between a trained guide dog and one that was not.

When quizzed about the successful implementation of guide dogs in South Korea and Japan, Abdul Aziz said both countries were not a good comparison because of their ethnic makeup. 

The Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) director-general Datuk Othman Mustapha joined the fray by saying that touching dogs was considered haram under Islamic law, and hence it was inappropriate to use guide dogs, especially in public areas, because of the Muslim majority.

“Muslims may accidentally brush against dogs, and dogs and their fur are unclean under Islamic tenets,” he said.

Read about it here
Use of guide dogs must follow city by-laws, says deputy minister

It appears however that the Jakim DG does not speak for all of the Muslim world. In an NST online article dated January 7, 2013, Perlis mufti Dr Juanda Jaya said there is no rule in Islam which prohibits the use of service dogs to guide the blind.

On why blind Muslims in the country do not consider having guide dogs, Juanda said there was confusion on the exact ruling and status of dogs in the religion

The article also quoted Fatwa Council president Tan Sri Dr Abdul Shukor Husni as saying there was no specific fatwa issued for guide dogs for the blind.

If there is a request and we see a present need for the issuance of a fatwa on guide dogs, we will have a meeting to discuss this issue thoroughly," said Shukor.

More on this at:
Islam allows blind to use dogs

In 2008, the United Kingdom's Muslim Law (Syariah) Council issued a fatwa stating that "a blind person, in the light of syariah law, will be allowed to keep a guide dog to help him and if required to take him to the mosque for his prayers".

Then, 18-year-old Mohammed Abraar Khatri, who lost his sight because of a degenerative disease the same year, championed the rights of Muslims to use the services of guide dogs with help from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the Muslim Council of Britain.

His guide dog, named Vargo, accompanied Mohammed to school, outings and to the mosque.
A special compartment was set up within the mosque compound to let the dog stay while Mohammed went to pray.



"Mohammad Shahid Raza, director of the Imams and Mosques Council UK, said: "I believe that in all new mosques such facilities for disabled people will be an essential part of their design.

"Such a facility will highlight the Islamic attitude of helping disabled people and enhance the services we provide to the Muslim community." 

Mohammed's father Gafar Khatri said: "Now instead of being dependent on other people to take him places he can now go where ever he wants when he wants. 

Ruling allows guide dog in mosque

A time for change

The argument in favour of allowing the blind to  have guide dogs are many and that which opposes it appears to be only one - public perception. And public perception can be changed. It will take time, but it is possible.

The public needs to be educated not to fear guide dogs. They need to be enlightened on how guide dogs function. 

There needs to be a comprehensive education campaign via the media with the support of the Transport Ministry, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) to spread awareness on this issue.

The government also needs to engage with the companies that run the major public transportation networks in the country to get them to support this move.

Islam is not an obstacle

As mentioned above, if a blind Muslim boy in the United Kingdom can have a guide dog and bring it into the compound of a mosque, why can't Muslim and non-Muslim blind Malaysians bring their guide dogs out in public in Muslim majority Malaysia?

Based on the above example and quotes by Muslim religious leaders  in Malaysia and the United Kingdom ( see above) Islam cannot be used as an excuse to deny the blind mobility.

Disabled friendly

Malaysia sees itself as a disabled friendly country, we allocate parking spaces for them, seats aboard public transportation, specific cubicles in public toilets among others. So why the prejudice against guide dogs for the blind?

As the debate on this issue continues, many blind people continue to go about their daily life without the aid of a guide dog which would enhance the level of independence they enjoy.

Not all blind people have the luxury of having a family member or friend guide them every step of the way. Also many prefer to be independent and do things on their own and rightly so. But there are dangers present being a blind person on your own in public, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Crime and accidents always remains a worry.

Dogs for Sight


The Dogs for Sight (DFS) campaign is an initiative by Save One’s Sight Mission (SOSM) and Glaucoma Society Malaysia (GSM), of which Stevens Chan is also the founder and CEO.

Chan said DFS planned to push for guide dogs to be allowed in public facilities such as trains and hotels so that more of this canine help could be brought into Malaysia.

“We have already secured five dogs, including their training, at a cost of RM250,000 from the Nanjing Police Academy in China,” he said. Adding that two of the dogs could arrive next year.

Chan said this at the launch of a DFS campaign to garner 100,000 signatures with a minimum RM10 donation to raise awareness of guide dogs and funds to help set up a facility to train them in Malaysia.

SOS Mission, the event arm of Malaysia Glaucoma Society, first launched the Dog for Sight Campaign in 2012 to educate the public on the need to give the visually-impaired in Malaysia a chance to regain their lives, dignity and mobility. 

SOS Mission works towards getting approvals to allow guide dogs to work in Malaysia.

Currently, there are more than 30,000 blind Malaysians officially registered and many more in smaller towns and children who are not registered.

SOS Mission notes that it is important to give the blind a chance to have a job and live independently. 

More on the DFS campaign

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1052288

http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/05/09/Dont-feed-or-pet-guide-dogs-public-urged-New-campaign-aims-to-pr

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/features/article/meet-lashawn-malaysias-first-and-only-guide-dog

http://www.visionkl.com/article/dogs-dark

http://coffeeticks.my/guide-dogs-for-the-blind-not-welcomed/

http://www.theheat.my/Article.aspx?ArticleId=3818

http://www.spca.org.my/v51/noticeboard.php?id=484










Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has said there should not be a problem with allowing guide dogs to assist the disabled in using public transportation, as well as in public places. - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/spad-says-guide-dogs-can-ride-on-public-transport#sthash.tFDFKz7n.dpuf












Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has said there should not be a problem with allowing guide dogs to assist the disabled in using public transportation - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/spad-says-guide-dogs-can-ride-on-public-transport#sthash.s3ex80Il.dpuf
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has said there should not be a problem with allowing guide dogs to assist the disabled in using public transportation - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/spad-says-guide-dogs-can-ride-on-public-transport#sthash.s3ex80Il.dpuf
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has said there should not be a problem with allowing guide dogs to assist the disabled in using public transportation, - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/spad-says-guide-dogs-can-ride-on-public-transport#sthash.s3ex80Il.dpuf
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has said there should not be a problem with allowing guide dogs to assist the disabled in using public transportation, - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/spad-says-guide-dogs-can-ride-on-public-transport#sthash.s3ex80Il.dpuf
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has said there should not be a problem with allowing guide dogs to assist the disabled in using public transportation, - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/spad-says-guide-dogs-can-ride-on-public-transport#sthash.s3ex80Il.dpuLashawn was brought here under the Dogs for Sight (DFS) campaign by the Save One’s Sight Mission (SOSM) and Glaucoma Society Malaysia (GSM), of which Chan is also the founder and CEO.DFS, he said, planned to push for guide dogs to be allowed in public facilities such as trains and hotels so that more of this canine help could be brought in to Malaysia.“We have already secured five dogs, including their training, at a cost of RM250,000 from the Nanjing Police Academy in China,” he said. adding that two of the dogs could arrive next year.A guide dog had to be trained for at least two years before it was carefully matched with an owner, he said.Chan was at the launch of a DFS campaign to garner 100,000 signatures with a minimum RM10 donation to raise awareness of guide dogs and funds to help set up a facility to train them in Malaysia.

2 comments:

Small Kucing said...

Been to your blog several times but comment column seems to be missing. Only saw it appear today

Yea, the public must be make aware to make allowance or guide dogs. Come on la...they allow those fancy handbag dogs in the shopping mall and cab why not guide dog.

As for poo and pee, guide dogs have been trained and they know not to simply pee and poo anywhere

Jothi said...

Hi! Thanks for dropping by. Comment column did not appear hmm.....whenever I post and check my blog,I see the column. It could be a faulty blogger thing. Thanks for letting me know though.

Good point on the fancy handbag dogs. Quite unfair that cute accessories are allowed, but a guide dog that performs a useful function is not. Our country has a long way to go, hopefully we eventually get there!