Patron & Chairman Message

Guide Dogs Singapore Patron

Prof Tommy Koh

Opening The Doors of Our Hearts to the Vision-Impaired Community in Singapore

When I think about what’s meaningful to me, I think of people and their kindness: people of all backgrounds working hand in hand to make Singapore a caring and sharing society where everyone can live to their fullest potential. That’s what Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd (GDS) is aiming to build – an inclusive society where every blind and vision impaired person (VI) is empowered for independent living.

Being the patron of GDS is a meaningful commitment because I can advocate for people with VI and the use of guide dogs to improve the quality of their lives. I am inspired by the small but dynamic team of GDS, who chose to work for a lesser-known cause – being a small voice in a very large environment.

The situation in Singapore for people with disabilities has improved a lot in the last 30 years. We have introduced legislation to permit the use of guide dogs in public transport and public places. This legislative framework is the core principle of the Guide Dogs Singapore’s work.

However, such changes in the law need to be accompanied by a change in cultural attitudes and the clearing of misconceptions among Singaporeans. Many of those working in the service industry are still unaware of these laws and deny entry to VI people and their guide dogs. The onus then falls on the VI person to explain and stand up for his or her lawful rights. I appeal to the owners and managers of office buildings, shopping malls, hotels and food establishments to do their part in educating their frontline employees, to welcome VI people and their guide dogs to their premises.

I also appeal to companies to look beyond a person’s vision loss, and recognise their qualifications and skills. Today’s technology and government grants (on assistive technology) enable VI people to work independently and productively. As an inclusive employer, you will be giving those, who are still in the working age group, the opportunity to earn a living and be self-reliant. Your support is vital to their integration into society.

Let us all open the doors of our hearts to the VI community. Let us make Singapore the most disabled-friendly city in Asia.

Prof Tommy Koh

Chairman

Dr. Wong Hon Tym

Expanding Our Vision Beyond What The Eyes Can See

Vision overwhelmingly dominates the information we absorb from our five senses – if of course, our eyesight is intact. The loss of vision is unimaginable to many of us; as an eye specialist, I know of deeply sobering studies which tell us that poorly-sighted patients would willingly give up years of their life, if they could regain even some of their vision.

Since our founding in 2006, Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd (GDS) has been supporting people with vision impairment (VI), whether they use a white cane or a guide dog. In 2021, we served over 400 clients and proudly welcomed our 7th guide dog team. These are still humble figures, but I am happy to state that our roster is growing, and that more guide dog teams will debut steadily over the years.

We have two cornerstone programmes to drive our mission:

Our holistic rehabilitation programme that teaches our clients how to better perform daily tasks and travel independently. Via this programme, we have been empowering people with VI to thrive – at home, at work and in their communities.

The other cornerstone is of course our Guide Dog Programme, which harnesses a dog’s guiding ability to enhance mobility and safety for people with VI. These working dogs also improve the emotional well-being of their VI users, something the GDS team has been privileged to witness over and over again. It is something we will never tire of.

Guide dogs are regrettably still a rare sight in Singapore, when compared to the West or other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan. We are working hard towards the day when Singaporeans are “de-sensitised” to seeing VI people with their guide dogs, and welcome and support them unreservedly.

Your continued support is invaluable to GDS. Thank you for your donations, time, and passion; together we will continue to strive for a time when a significant sector of the VI population become critical contributors and stakeholders in our community. It is imperative that we demand, design and build a living environment that is enabling and inclusive. The recipe to achieve this is complex: we must continue to push for more legislation and advocate for the roles and rights of guide dogs and the VI community; we must leverage on technology to expand their worlds even further.

And above all, we must keep changing mindsets: people with VI are able to work and live very productively. If we could all see beyond their disability and champion their great capacity to participate and contribute, this will pave the way to a more gracious and engaged Singapore.

GDS is committed to playing a big part in that journey.

Dr. Wong Hon Tym

Videos

Spread the word. It’s the least you can do.

Stories

Annie Mok

Annie Mok
Overcoming the stigma of using a white cane

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Ganesan Alagappan

Ganesan Alagappan
Inspires our employees to bring the awareness back home to their family and friends

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Dustin Wilburn

Dustin Wilburn
I wanted to nominate a charitable cause to assist those with vision impairments

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