Following all the discussions about Cassandra and her guide dog, Esme and following a friend, Patsy Goh's suggestion, I came over to this Facebook page and read all the posts made by Cassandra, since she started it in 2012.
And, I really, truly, believe that we have judged her unfairly. Let me attempt to explain.
Cassandra began her page in April on 2012 and for me, it is without a doubt that the intention behind this page was to create awareness towards guide dogs for the visually impaired. Very likely as she continued maintaining her page, she also used it as an avenue for catharsis by sharing her experiences of a visually impaired person.
Many of her posts were links to resources which provided information about guide dogs. Many were simply about her daily activities, work, church, going here or there.
Yes, there were those posts about the ignorant, visually abled people but many of them were portrayed in harmless forms than those that were picked up by the media, such as this one, which I thought was quite witty actually.
Esme the Guide Dog
November 3, 2012 · Bukit Panjang ·
"My pour nose got attacked by an army of ants just now.
On way from school mama asked me to Stan outside bus stop as there were some screams from kids and disapproving mothers.”
Esme the Guide Dog
November 8, 2013 ·
“Still waiting for manager to decide it would let mum and I at Z."
Esme the Guide Dog feeling amused at Maxwell Food Centre
April 3 at 6:29pm ·
"Some person walked by and exclaimed loudly a couple of times Kong Bu meaning horror I did not know that I have changed my name.”
Some of them were written from a more hurt and reflective perspective, yet still with the desire to inform and to educate, like this one:
August 21, 2012 ·
"Sad Musings of a Singaporean Guide Dog handler
Not everything is always smooth sailing for Esme and I sometimes people and places don’t welcome us. Esme and I understand that sometimes people might be disturbed by the sight of a midsized dog in a bathroom, supermarket or on public transport.
We aim to educate people around us daily about Guide dogs, in the hopes that the road ahead of the future Singaporeans getting guide dogs would be a little easier. I will post 2 rather sad incidences that happened to Esme and I to illustrate the point. Public awareness and acceptance of guide dogs greatly needs to be enhanced before more from the Singaporean blind community are willing to come forward and accept help from guide dogs.
I believe that someday soon moving around Singapore with Esme would be just as easy and seamless like in other countries and there would not be unnecessary screams and outbursts! Share your thoughts with us and help spread the word on guide dogs.
There was no issues with the driver, in fact, she helped explained to a few other commuters on the bus about Esme and how guide dogs were allowed on public transportation. As it was very crowded I remained at the front. Esme had her back feet on the bottom step and front paws on the top step all the way down the highway. I’m touched daily by how much she sacrifices to help me get around. When we stopped outside Tangs, there was a man at the bus stop shouting that dogs are not allowed on buses. Even after explanations that it was a guide dog and for me the blind person, the man continued to shout angrily which sparked a few other passengers towards the back of the bus agree with the man at the bus stop that dogs were not allowed on the bus. He said no no no, no dogs I don't know what guide dog.
Subsequently, we drove away, leaving the man standing at the bus stop shouting, the driver later told me that the man was a bus inspector from her company .
I hope that people can have more empathy towards a blind girl and her guide dog going to work on the bus as that’s the most affordable transportation. And understanding that there is legislation that allows guide dogs on public transport and the dogs are not aggressive, well behaved and highly trained.
Greenridge Shopping Center
Recently during a visit to the Dr at Greenridge Shopping Center with my helper and daughter, something cold and hard hit the top of my head, shirt and right arm while on the escalator. My helper told me that a woman threw a cup at me, and was now in the upstairs shop. On asking the woman why she threw a cup at me, she aggressively spoke in a language I did not understand. She then lunged at me and pushed me over, landing on top of me and ran away.
Later, a man helped me up from the floor. He identified himself as security. Although I pleaded with him and the bystanders to help me, he was very concerned for me and continued to hold onto me for fear that I would fall down the escalator. I tried to stand up but I fainted. When I gained consciousness, I found myself inside the shop lying on the floor. The paramedics and police arrived shortly. As I had regained consciousness, I rejected the paramedic’s offer to come with them to the hospital. I was fearful that the hospital bill would be absorbident.
Next day the terrible headache and giddiness would not go away so I had to go to the hospital to have an MRI. But that’s another story for another day how I was standing outside the hospital entrance for almost an hour with Esme.
I still wonder till today why I was assaulted. and I sure hope it does not happon again.”
But from 2012 to 2015, there have been so many positive posts by Cassandra who thanked one establishment or another which allowed her in their premises, this individual or another who was kind to her on a certain day, and always all her friends supporting her on her Facebook page.
These posts far outweighed and out numbered the negative ones. The negative ones that caught the attention of the media have supposedly been the few that went “viral”.
And how did the media get wind of these situations? From her Facebook page. Cassandra wrote these incidents as she would all other incidents that have transpired these past years.
The thing is that we are far from being aware about the rights of our less abled human beings and they are as human as we are. They feel joy, hurts, love, hope, a desire to want change not only for themselves but for others like them. And as they politely ask for their right to be, we are often inclined to brush them aside because we are unable to perceive life from where and how they have to live it.
So, Cassandra is not asking for anything beyond what is accorded to sighted people. She is simply asking for equal rights, which is the freedom to do and move without restrictions. However, we tend to think that equality is to give every person the same resource or benefit regardless of any conditions each individual may have and that is where we fail individuals in society and where individuals fall through the cracks. I remember a picture that very aptly depicts what equality should and must be.
Please, people, if you cannot support Cassandra in her effort to bring awareness, do think about leaving her and her page alone. She did not go to the press or any other social media. She simply came to her Facebook page to share her experience as she has been doing all these years. Don't lay the blame at her door if the media chooses to focus only on the negative experiences that Cassandra shares here.
Sengkang MP He Ting Ru said she was dismayed that many Singaporeans are living with racism. "There is no place in our society for racism, sexism or xenophobia," she wrote.