SINGAPORE: For Singapore to become a society that is truly inclusive of the visually-impaired, more public education about guide dogs and what they do is necessary.
Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said one way to do this is to debunk misconceptions that the working dogs are pets.
He said: "We are very generous people. You look at how they open up their purses to give for charities, how they help in natural disasters. If they understand the issue, they will be very helpful, so that's the key."
Mr Shanmugam was speaking at an event by the Guide Dog Association for the Blind (GDAB) to raise awareness about the trained mobility aides.
About 70 people dined in the dark to experience the daily challenges faced by a person with vision loss.
There are some 4,000 visually-impaired people, but only three guide dogs in Singapore.
Mr Shanmugam said there are difficulties getting a system in place to "properly recognise" guide dogs, so a more "supportive regulatory framework" is needed.
"We have not been able to recognise guide dogs in accordance with international protocols. Questions have also been raised about the import of guide dogs - and the kinds of control necessary," he said.
"The agencies try their best, the problems don't neatly fall into the remit of a single agency or any one ministry, but sometimes when there is no clear jurisdiction, the problem is difficult to solve."
There is also a push for more barrier-free access in Singapore.
At the event, the GDAB submitted a set of proposals on safer pedestrian crossings and roads for the visually-impaired to the Land Transport Authority for their consideration.
Andrew Chew, director of Guide Dogs Association of the Blind, said: "We're trying to ensure more guidelines and standards are in place so that the physical environment in the outdoors is safer for blind people. There are no obstacles, there are logical layouts, and there are those surface indicators on the floor that help to guide blind people."