You have probably come across emotional support animals or guide dogs in your day-to-day life, with some making headlines for their cuteness.
In a major step for inclusivity in our society, K9Assistance, a registered charity which promotes the use and acceptance of Assistance Dogs for People with Disabilities (PwDs) in Singapore, has partnered with The Privé Group to allow assistance dogs in their restaurants.
As of now, K9Assistance remains the first and only organisation in Singapore to champion the use and acceptance of bona fide Assistance Dogs (ADs) beyond Seeing-Eye Dogs (SEDs).
The Privé Group is the first restaurant chain in Singapore that has pledged to be an Assistance Dog-Friendly Business, Cassandra Chiu, Executive Director of K9Assistance, told Mothership.
What are assistance dogs?
According to Chiu, ADs are well-trained service dogs that perform a minimum of three tasks to mitigate the effects of the specific disability of the disabled handler they work with.
In many countries, Emotional Support Animals are not trained to do the same, and therefore do not have the same public accessibility as ADs.
Chiu elaborated that Guide Dogs are the same as SEDs for the blind and vision-impaired.
An SED is a type of Assistance Dog that serves only one blind or vision-impaired handler.
Other ADs include those serving people with autism, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those with require assistance with mobility.
According to Bernice Fong, Marketing Manager of The Privé Group, assistance dogs are welcomed in all their restaurants, but are “subject to government and building regulations.”
The Privé Group has 14 outlets under them, including brands such as Privé, Privé Grill, Bayswater Kitchen and Empress.
Collaboration after visit to restaurant
The initiative came about after Chiu’s visit to a Privé outlet with her SED.
Chiu recounted to Mothership that on Jan. 5 morning, she, her SED named Elke, along with Shalom Lim, K9 Assistance’s Community Partnerships Executive, were at the Singapore Botanic Gardens for a photoshoot.
After they finished, they decided to dine at Privé Botanic Gardens and were apparently met with kind and hospitable staff who were very welcoming of Elke, the SED, into their restaurant premises.
Heartened by the response, K9Assistance reached out to Privé to share more about themselves, as well as ways to support their cause by pledging to be an Assistance Dog-friendly business.
The Privé Group decided to pledge to become an Assistance Dog-friendly business as they had a “shared vision to pioneer a more inclusive society”.
The Group also felt that this would help in “improving the lives of the disabled” and will “provide significant benefits to the overall community and the individuals themselves”.
According to Chiu, The Privé Group is the first restaurant chain to express willingness to be welcoming of all types of ADs.
Chiu praised the collaborative process, stating that both parties had a collective goal of providing more inclusive spaces for Singaporeans with disabilities and their families.
“They were very receptive, and understood the broader empowering impact that welcoming ADs into their restaurant premises islandwide would have on the lives of Singaporeans with disabilities.”
Difficulties of having an AD in Singapore
K9Assistance advocates for all types of ADs, only SEDs for the blind and vision-impaired are currently permitted in public spaces like restaurants and retail stores.
SED handlers thus continue to face challenges and difficult situations when bringing their ADs about in public.
As a SED handler, Chiu has faced multiple accessibility issues.
Staff have turned her away when visiting new restaurants and places.
According to Chiu, most staff unfamiliar with ADs were usually hesitant about her AD, but were able to understand her situation after some explaining.
This “labour of convincing” is a “constant concern” for disabled handlers like Chiu, which makes community partnerships with businesses such as Privé especially significant in alleviating such a burden.
K9Assistance hopes other businesses can be similarly inspired by Privé to commit towards fostering a caring culture of inclusivity in Singapore by pledging to be an AD-friendly business.
To help support K9Assistance to continue championing their cause, one can donate to them here.
Alternatively, one can purchase tickets to their K9 EmPAWer Walk fundraising event on Apr. 3 here.
Top images via K9Assistance and Privé Botanic Gardens.