All Flushed Over Toilet Blog

In today’s The Sunday Times:

Image courtesy of The Prawn King

Oct 30, 200
All flushed over toilet blog

Wendy Cheng’s blog on loos for the handicapped draws a slew of complaints – leading 2 advertisers to pull out from her website

By Jeremy Au Yong

A HEATED online debate over toilets for the handicapped has caused local blogger Wendy Cheng to lose two of her three sponsorship deals.

Blogger Wendy Cheng found support from two unlikely groups. The Society for the Physically Disabled as well as the Handicaps Welfare Association see nothing wrong with sharing toilets meant for the handicapped, as long as the able-bodied give priority to the disabled. — STEPHANIE YEOW

Hair salon Kimage and nail studio Voxy pulled their ads from her popular website this week, after receiving complaints from Netizens about her remarks on loos for the handicapped. Only T-shirt maker LocalBrand is staying.

Both companies paid the 21-year-old to run their ads for three months. But after two months, Voxy wanted out while Kimage had just one week left.

While none would reveal the amount paid, the two endorsements are worth a three-figure sum to Ms Cheng.

Her loss was prompted by remarks she made two weeks ago in her online diary. She wrote that the loos – bigger and equipped with a sink – were not just for the use of disabled people.

‘Sure, if I see that you are physically disabled, and you need to use the toilet, then yes, obviously I will let you use it and go use a normal toilet,’ she said.

But at other times, the able-bodied can use it too, she added. Her blog entry also criticised a ‘rude’ disabled person in Ginza Plaza who had scolded a man for trying to use the loo for the handicapped.

It raised the ire of many. Her site was swamped by dozens of rude messages that accused her of being callous and uncivilised, which are among the kinder labels hurled at her.

Her critics argued that the toilets should not be dirtied by the abled-bodied who had many more cubicles from which to pick and use.

‘It’s a basic amenity for us. It is a right, not a privilege,’ said Mr Peter Tan, 39, a Malaysian blogger who is partially paralysed. He was so riled by her posting that he complained to the three sponsors, criticising them for endorsing her.

Others followed. By the end of last week, Kimage had received about 300 e-mail messages, prompting it to suspend its association with Ms Cheng.

Ms Monica Tan, director of Kimage, which has 15 outlets, said the chain was shocked by the huge number of e-mail.

She said: ‘It just became one big hoo-ha. There were so many e-mail messages I couldn’t finish reading all of them. I didn’t want to get involved.’

Similarly, a spokesman for Voxy admitted that the fracas played a part in its decision to end the deal, although there were other ‘internal reasons’.

LocalBrand founder Turodrique Fuad, however, is not pulling out even though he disagrees with Ms Cheng. He thinks the issue has been blown out of proportion.

‘There was nothing intentionally malicious about her post. I may not agree with her view but when you endorse a blogger, you have to accept that he or she is sometimes going to say controversial things.

‘You have to give them the freedom,’ he said.

Ms Cheng is known for speaking her mind. She has written about measuring penises and evangelising, and poked fun at the nude pictures posted by a blogger writing as Sarong Party Girl.

That she has enemies is no surprise. In July, a hacker hijacked her blog, deleted its contents and left rude messages in its place.

On the latest furore, she has supporters from an unlikely source. The Society for the Physically Disabled as well as the Handicaps Welfare Association see nothing wrong with sharing the loos as long as the able-bodied give priority to the disabled.

Right or wrong, Ms Cheng said the episode would not change anything. ‘I don’t think I have projected something that is extreme and I will write exactly the way I’ve always done.’

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. Columnist of Breaking Barriers in The Borneo Post. Principal Trainer at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

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