Saturday May 24, 2014
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Stevens Chan walked inside Capital Mall Asia for 10 minutes before he was ordered to leave by security. — Picture by Azinuddin GhazaliStevens Chan walked inside Capital Mall Asia for 10 minutes before he was ordered to leave by security. — Picture by Azinuddin GhazaliPETALING JAYA, May 24— It appears that a blind person with a guide dog cannot use public transportation. Worse, in an exercise by Malay Mail to test public response to man and guide dog, Stevens Chan and Lashawn — Malaysia's first and only guide dog — were chased out of a mall. We relate the experiences of our reporters and visually impaired Chan.

Being visually impaired and going for a walk in the mall isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. However, with guide dog Lashawn leading his master Stevens Chan, navigation becomes much less of a problem.

I was assigned to observe my blindfolded colleague Calvin Khong who was led around at an apartment complex in a Malay Mail exercise to promote Chan's Dogs for Sight campaign.

As Malaysia’s only guide dog for the blind, the sight of Lashawn leading his master is not the most common thing one experiences.

However, residents of the Desa Saujana apartment in Seri Kembangan have taken notice of Lashawn more than once.

Housewife Ong Yi Fang, 63, said: “Lashawn is a very gentle and clever animal and the very sight of him helps to generate a feeling of caring for the blind.”

Iranian tour guide Ali Reza Kabolimallak, 44, said seeing Lashawn and Stevens together would encourage other blind people to get a guide dog.

When brought to Capital Mall Asia at The Mines, Lashawn was quick to draw stares from the public.

People chatted among themselves asking questions like: “Is this allowed here?” “Is that a guide dog leading a blind man?” “What training does the dog get” “Will the dog bite?” while Lashawn and Stevens strolled through the mall’s entrance and headed for the concourse.

The stunt quickly drew the attention of the mall security, leading to Lashawn and Stevens quickly being escorted out of the premises.

Even when informed about Steven’s handicap and Lashawn was helping him move around, the mall security was adamant that no animals were allowed without some sort of permit.

Outside, Stevens tried to hail a cab ride back home but he was again adamantly refused by several taxi drivers who insisted animals were not allowed in taxis.

Does someone expect Stevens and Lashawn to be confined to their home? If he is unable to get public transport, should he just walk and run the risk of being mugged and get his guide dog injured?

Stevens found his way back home after a phone call to a close friend.

“I expected to be treated this way but I hope the authorities will come to their senses.”

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