SINGAPORE: Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh has publicly supported paralympic swimmer Sophie Soon, who posted a viral TikTok video on Wednesday (8 Mar) confronting Rocky Master employees at Hougang 1 Mall, who had prohibited her from dining inside the cafe with her guide dog.
The 25-year-old’s video shows a member of the Rocky Master staff discussing the issue with a supervisor over the phone. The staff eventually told the pair that they could dine at the restaurant but had to sit in the outdoor dining area with the dog.
Ms Soon’s mother, who was with her, was unhappy with the response and repeatedly said “no” while asking to speak to the person the staff was talking to. The staff threatened to call the police if Ms Soon posted the video she was taking online, and the restaurant also allegedly called mall security on them and refused to take their orders.
In a separate video, Ms Soon that the staff were “discriminating against guide dog users and ultimately treating us incredibly rudely just because they think that they’re in the right even though they’re the ones that are uneducated.”
Asserting “businesses are just going to continue to get away with this kind of behaviour” if people her don’t bring attention to these issues, she added that such incidents have happened “way too many times,” with no improvement.
Rocky Master has since responded on Instagram and said that they need to consider all of their customer’s needs. Asking that guide dogs be leashed and preferably be seated at an outdoor seating area, the food chain said that the staff whom Ms Soon dealt with was left “traumatised” by the confrontation.
“In this incident, our staff may not be very experienced in handling such situations, but we are extremely grateful that she took a cautious approach to verify with her superior before making any commitment.
“Even under the circumstances of being filmed, she and the rest of the team maintained their composure and did their best to accommodate and fulfil your requests,” said the restaurant.
The issue has divided Singaporeans online, with some defending Ms Soon and others siding with the restaurant. Some said that Ms Soon was not wrong but the way she approached the issue was too “rude.” Others, meanwhile, said that she responded appropriately as food and beverage establishments should have trained their staff on how to accommodate patrons with guide dogs.
One prominent Singaporean who has supported Ms Soon online is former diplomat Professor Tommy Koh. Prof Koh, who is the patron of the Guide Dogs Singapore charity, said that he was “very sorry” to hear of the incident as he and his team have successfully convinced the Government, the private sector and MUIS of just how integral guide dogs are to visually impaired persons.
Urging all establishments to welcome visually impaired individuals and their guide dogs to their premises, Prof Koh said:
“Over the years, we have succeeded in convincing the government, the private sector and MUIS that a guide dog is not a pet dog but a working dog. For a blind person her guide dog is her eyes. The guide dog is allowed to accompany the blind person everywhere.
“I am therefore very sorry to learn that an employee at a Rocky Master restaurant in the Hougang Mall wouldn’t allow Sophie Soon and her guide dog to enter the restaurant. I take this opportunity to request all our friends in Singapore to welcome our blind compatriots and their guide dogs to their premises.”
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