The importance of accessible smoke alarms for deaf renters

Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) member Lee* knows from personal experience the importance of being able to make minor modifications to rental properties.

Lee is deaf and cannot hear conventional smoke alarms, fortunately, there are smoke alarms specifically designed for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These alarms have a strobe light and/or a vibrating pad that can be placed under your pillow. When the smoke alarm sounds, these devices activate, alerting the person to the danger.

These alarms can also be connected to conventional audible alarms in different locations in your house, meaning if one of the alarms senses smoke, all alarms will sound, the strobe will flash, and the vibrating pad will vibrate.

In Lee's previous rental property, he lived for multiple years without an accessible smoke alarm. He had to fight his real estate agent for months to be allowed to install one, and even then, he was only allowed to do so after he sought a letter from his audiologist. Lee's accessible smoke alarm was funded through his National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan, meaning there was no cost to his landlord.

During those months, Lee's mental health suffered, and the situation with his real estate agent contributed to his poor mental health. He felt depressed and suicidal, forced to live in a dangerous situation where his life could have potentially been at risk.

Lee's experience highlights the importance of minor modifications to rental properties, and proper training for property managers and landlords. Lee believes there should be training available for property managers and landlords to ensure they understand the needs of people with disability and can provide appropriate accommodations.

Ensuring the safety of all tenants, particularly those with disability, should be a top priority for landlords and property managers. It is essential that they have the knowledge and training necessary to provide appropriate accommodations.

*Name has been changed for privacy.