SINGAPORE — A TikTok video posted last month showing a blind man with his guide dog getting knocked into by a cyclist on a shared path has gone viral.
The blind man has been identified as Thomas Chan, who was diagnosed with Glaucoma at age 16, and has been supported by his Japanese guide dog, Eve, since June last year.
Chan's sight started to deteriorate in his early twenties before becoming fully blind.
In the video dated 21 March, a man in yellow on a bicycle can be seen cycling towards Chan on a narrow footpath before colliding into him. The cyclist showed no signs of stopping, slowing down or giving way.
Eve - who is clad in working harness - was then briefly seen looking up at Chan before both continued on their walk.
The video, which has since garnered over 100,000 views, asked for more public courtesy towards others on shared paths.
Non-profit social service agency Guide Dogs Singapore (GDS) shared with Yahoo Southeast Asia on Friday (28 April) on how Eve has been supportive of Chan's ability to move about.
"Eve has greatly enhanced the independence and safety of Thomas, who travels around Singapore very frequently. Eve also helps Thomas to navigate through various environments and avoid obstacles that might otherwise pose a danger to him," the agency said.
White cane users also at risk
GDS shared that incidents involving guide-dog users and cyclists occur more often than the public knows. White cane users also face similar risks of colliding with cyclists or PMDs (personal mobility devices).
"Cyclists may pose a greater risk, as their speed and silent approach can be difficult for guide dogs and their users to detect," it said.
In response to the incident, GDS proposes cyclists to ring their bicycle bell when approaching to alert guide dog users of their presence. They also advise cyclists to slow down or stop when in close contact with guide dog or white cane users.
"We strongly encourage members of the public and cyclists to exercise patience and look out for people with vision impairment, whether they are using a white cane or guide dog."
On top of vision impairment, some may also struggle with hearing impairment. As such, they may not be able to pick up the sound of the bell. In such cases, cyclists should remain vigilant of their surroundings.
GDS advises cyclists against leaving their stationary bicycles and obstructing walkways. This can be dangerous as white cane users may get their canes stuck in the bicycle wheels, which could lead to injury.
How to spot and interact with guide dogs and their users safely
GDS notes that not all members of the public are aware of guide dogs or how to interact with them safely.
"If you see a guide dog, do not pat, talk, feed or distract the guide dog as it will put both the user and the guide dog in danger," it said.
Guide dogs can be identified from their working harness with the words "Do Not Distract". This indicates that the guide dog is busy guiding their vision impaired user and should not be distracted.
"Don't be afraid to ask the guide dog user if they require any help," GDS said. "We are incredibly grateful for the kindness and consideration of members of the public who offer to help our guide dog users. While guide dogs help their users to be more independent, there are times when they may require assistance."
For members of the public who wish to help, it is always best to ask the guide dog user or people with vision impairment using a white cane if they require any assistance before taking action. Some may decline assistance as they are familiar with the environment, while others might appreciate it.
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