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January 31, 2003

Vandals targets deaf couple

From: CBC Calgary, Canada - 31 Jan 2003

Calgary - The Levies don't understand why, but over the last year they've become targets of mean-spirited vandals, who've tossed eggs at their home and set fires on their steps.

Thursday, because the Levies are deaf, the Calgary fire department installed a special device to help alert them to any other fires. The puck-sized smoke detector, which can be placed in their bed, vibrates when it senses smoke.

"I feel hurt and I'm worried," Todd Levie says in sign language, interpreted by his nine-year-old daughter Libby. "I want to protect my daughter and my wife. I want to stop this."

Police have no suspects or motive for the vandalism, although Libby has a theory.

"All the kids think deaf people are stupid, just because they can't hear what other people are saying," she says.

With a $300 pricetag, few in the deaf community purchase the smoke alarm.

"I work with deaf people all the time and very, very few have that kind of equipment for fire protection," Mike Keeping, with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, said. He has a similar alarm in his home.

Keeping says the deaf require special equipment for things hearing people take for granted – doorbells, phones, knowing their babies are crying.

'When you add up the cost of signalling equipment, if there's any one thing you can leave out, to save a few dollars, it would be the fire protection," Keeping said. "Because the phone rings all day, and the doorbell quite often, and the kid cries many times a day.

"But the house doesn't light on fire too often. So it's the first thing to go. Consequently, the level of safety is quite low."

This was the second deaf smoke alarm the fire department has installed in the city, paid for by corporate donations.

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