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MANILA, Philippines – It was all a simple misunderstanding.
This was Mark Cohen’s conclusion over the recent incident where Robinson’s Mall denied him and his guide dog, Happy, entry to the mall in observance of a “no pets” rule.
However, Cohen argued that Happy is more than a pet.
Cohen who is reportedly struggling with “neurological disorder with variant symptoms similar to epilepsy, Parkinsonism, and sensitivity to changes in the environment such as temperature and intensity of light,” uses the services of an assistance dog to help him live a normal life.
On Monday, September 1, Cohen and Mary Grace Lim of Robinson’s Land Corporation management discussed the incident to resolve the issue.
“We agreed that there had a been a simple misunderstanding, and that the mall management, security personnel and police found it unusual and very surprising to see a person with a disability accompanied by a certified assistance dog, especially a large Golden Retriever,” Cohen said.
After the dialogue, Cohen was finally allowed to enter the mall premises with his guide dog.
“For some of them, an Assistance Dog is indispensable. How can they live a normal life if they are not allowed access to malls, stores, restaurants and banks?” Cohen added.
Cohen is also a director of the International Institute For Assistance Dog Training, a group which specializes on training assistance dogs.
The incident sparked an online debate surrounding Philippine policies that protect the rights of persons with disability. The country observes Republic Act No. 7277 or The Magna Carta for Persons With A Disability, aimed at protecting the rights of PWDs to access to all public places and any form of public transportation.
“`Yan ang mga batas na dapat tinatrabaho ng mga mambabatas at hindi ‘yung pag-se-selfie ang pinagtutuunan nila ng pansin (That’s the kind of law that lawmakers should prioritize, and not pay attention to the anti-selfie bill),” Dheng Mendiola commented on the story page.
Niki Reynes agreed and added that Philippine establishments should be informed about the difference of pet and guide dogs. “Surely they would have updated their information already as this is not the first time that foreigner has been to that mall,” Reynes added.
Ronel del Rio, a “promoter” of the “3rd Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2013-2023” chosen by the United Nations-Economic and Social Commission in the Asia Pacific (UN-ESCAP) praised Robinson’s Mall for finally opening its doors to Cohen and his assistance dog.
He added that the Magna Carta for persons with disability needs to be updated.
“There is already an existing convention on the rights of PWDs based on human rights, and not only from the medical perspective,” Del Rio said in Filipino. – Rappler.com