Hi, my name is Veronica Bickle and I’ll be discussing fire safety for Deaf and hard of hearing people. One of the reasons why the Durham Deaf Accessibility Committee was established in the first place was because a number of us were concerned about the new law that require all of us to have smoke detectors set up in our homes.
This new law requires that audible smoke detectors must be set up in our homes, there was no mention about visual smoke detectors.
Visual smoke detectors are expensive. We discussed about this among ourselves and we were saying that many of us will not be able to afford to purchase visual smoke detectors. Those visual detectors may cost approximately $500 to $1,000 to set them up in our homes as the new law require that there must be at least one smoke detector on each floor. If the house has three floors, it means that three smoke detectors will be needed.
We decided to take some action and so we began with writing a letter to ADP (Assistive Devices Program) under the Ministry of Health. We waited for a response and when their response came, they advised that they reviewed our request and decided to deny our request to add visual smoke detectors to their list of funded devices. They advised that they feel that visual smoke detectors falls under home modifications and ADP only financially support “personal” devices such as TTYs. They feel that visual smoke detectors did not match the goals of their program.
Next, we decided to write a letter to the Fire Marshal of Ontario and to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to explain about our concerns. They stated that they understood our concerns. They also said that, yes, the law only states that audible smoke detectors is required but it is up to us if we want to set up visual smoke detectors.
We decided to ask the Deaf community in Ontario to send petition letters to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to emphasize our concern about this. After receiving those letters, they sent us a response inviting us to meet with the Fire Marshal of Ontario. A group of us went to meet with the Fire Marshal of Ontario and explained our concerns. He said he understood our concerns and will try his best and approach ADP and try to advocate about this issue. He also invited us to join the Public Fire Safety Committee. We agreed to join this committee and we sent representatives to attend several meetings. But we were not given much opportunity to have much input during these meetings. We felt that we could be doing more.
We also joined with the Canadian Hearing Society to meet with MPPs under the Ontario government at Queen Park to advocate about the importance of finding funding to help homeowners purchase these expensive visual smoke detectors.
We then wrote another letter to the Fire Marshal of Ontario with recommendations about how to improve fire safety for Deaf and hard of people. Some of the recommendations we brought forth were:
1) to ensure local fire prevention officers to add information about fire safety for people with hearing loss as part of their public education strategy;
2) amend the law to add visual smoke detectors for people with hearing loss;
3) advocate with large department stores such as Wal-Mart, RONA and Home Depot to have visual smoke detectors available for the public to purchase (currently, they are only available to buy at The Canadian Hearing Society)
We did not receive any response so we wrote another letter to remind the Fire Marshal of Ontario that we have not yet received an answer from him. We are still advocating this issue and we hope that someday, we will make funding available for Deaf and hard of hearing people to be able to afford to buy visual smoke detectors. People out there are able to purchase visual smoke for $10 to $20 and of course, we would like to have the same opportunity.
Letters /Correspondence – please click here
CHS Submission in response to proposed OBC