Education is the key way to getting seeing-eye, or guide dogs socially accepted as an aid to blind Malaysians, said Bar Council Human Rights Committee member Mohammad Faizal Che Yusof.
Published: Wednesday October 1, 2014 MYT 7:17:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday October 1, 2014 MYT 7:49:39 AM
by tan yi liang
PETALING JAYA: Education is the key way to getting seeing-eye, or guide dogs socially accepted as an aid to blind Malaysians, said Bar Council Human Rights Committee member Mohammad Faizal Che Yusof.
“People are still sensitive to dogs and there needs to be education and awareness for things to change. We seldom see guide dogs with people,” said Mohammad Faizal.
Mohammad Faizal, who was asked to comment about incidents recorded in a Facebook video of a guide dog for the blind, Lashawn and his blind handler, Stevens Chan, said any restrictions on blind people using guide dogs should take into account their rights to freedom of movement under the Federal Constitution.
“As a Malaysian citizen, you have a right to to move wherever you want so long you don’t breach any laws and regulations,” said Mohammad Faizal, who is blind himself.
In the video, entitled “Are You Blind? The Embarrassing Truth About Malaysians”, the 52-year old Chan and Lashawn were shown being denied access to taxis and buses, and ultimately told to leave a shopping complex in Kuala Lumpur.
However, Mohammad Faizal cautioned that local regulations do exist, and blind Malaysians who use guide dogs and sighted Malaysians have to draw a balance to their use.
“A balance has to be drawn between their right to movement as a person with a disability and the sensitivities of other people,” he said.
Asked what can be done to allow blind Malaysians equal access to public amenities and public transport, Mohammad Faizal said that such animals were a very new experience for many Malaysians. “Malaysians of all races are quite shocked to see blind people assisted by guide dogs. If people knew how effective these dogs are, they would be shocked,” said Mohammad Faizal.
In an phone conversation with The Star Online, Mohammad Faisal said that a properly-trained guide dog looks out for its human in a “professional” manner.
“They are professionals, they know what to do for their humans and how to protect them from danger,” he said.
Mohammad Faizal cited the example of Mahomed-Abraar Khatri who was allowed through a fatwa issued in 2008 by the UK Muslim Law Shariah Council to bring and rely on his guide dog Vargo when he used the Bilal Jamia mosque in Leicester.
“The mosque community built a special room for this dog to rest during prayer time. This is why the media has to help spread awareness as to how these guide dogs function, how they help blind people,” said Mohammad Faizal. When contacted, Dewan Negara Senator Bathmavathi Krishnan said that to a blind person, a well-trained guide dog is an aid helping that person lead an independent life.
“Of course, it can affect some sensitivities, but the dog is there to assist the person,” said Bathmavathi. She cited a 2013 statement by Perlis mufti Dr Juanda Jaya, who said in January 2013 that using the services of well-trained guide dogs was permissible in Islam
“If a decree can come out from the Majilis Fatwa, it can help guide Muslims,” said Bathmavathi, who is the president of the Association of Women with Disabilities Malaysia.
Asked to comment on the video of Chan and Lashawn, Bathmavathi said those who rely on seeing-eye dogs have a fundamental right to rely on these dogs and not be discriminated against. “I don’t think they should be ordered out of shopping complexes or denied entry to buses or trains, from a human rights perspective. A person with a disability has a right to use some sort of assistance like a seeing eye dog,” she said.
Bathmavathi cautioned however, that there must be a body that regulates and certifies this training so the behaviour of the dog meets certain internationally acceptable standards. “Handlers also have to be vetted to be responsible for the behaviour of their guide dogs,” said Bathmavathi.
At present, Chan, who is the founder and chief executive officer of the Glaucoma Society Malaysia is raising awareness of the use of guide dogs through the Dogs for Sight (DFS) campaign by the Save One’s Sight Mission (SOSM)
Chan had been reported by The Star saying that DFS had plans 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.