Because of BALANCE

Because of BALANCE, our clients gain the skills to feel confident and independent at work, home, and out in the community. Everyone in the BALANCE community has a “Because of BALANCE” story. In fact, it’s the most common thing our staff hear, expressed as gratitude and appreciation.


Client Stories

Do you feel grateful for the services you’ve received from a BALANCE staff member? Well you’re not alone.

BALANCE staff member Chelsea teaches a participant to use their phone
Some of our most dedicated clients took the time to express their gratitude by sharing their own “because of BALANCE” stories below.

Learn how our small, compassionate team provided support to individuals like Sheldon, Michael, and Alex so they could learn the skills they needed in order to secure employment, feel represented and heard in the community, and challenge and develop their ambitions.

After reading their stories, if you would like to support our programs and services by donating to BALANCE, click https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/balance-for-blind-adults/


Alex

I learned about BALANCE back in 1998 and over the years I’ve taken lessons in computer skills, braille, mobility, community facilitation… the list goes on. One of my fondest memories is learning carpentry. I had just bought a house and I wanted to be able to do the basic things that any new homeowner does like put up shelving. My instructor at the time just happened to be skilled in carpentry so she taught me all I needed to know. Not only did I put those shelves up, I learned how to strip a table, varnish and paint it. Because of BALANCE I developed my ambitions. The difference about BALANCE is that I’ve always felt very respected. Like family. I’ve worked with agencies all over the world and BALANCE for me has been the best of the best.


Minette

My name is Minette and I was connected to BALANCE 5 years ago. I had just immigrated to Canada from Guyana and was in need of support. In Guyana there were little to no support services for blind or visually impaired individuals. BALANCE’s amazing staff immediately made me feel welcome. Because of BALANCE, I have the skills to cook in my own kitchen. I can take public transit if I need to run errands.


Lindsay

When I lost my sight, which was 12 years ago, I was taking mobility training with an agency who could only meet 1 day a week. That didn’t work for me, I needed more time. I was referred to BALANCE and the rest is history. Because of BALANCE, I can walk down the street independently and take the subway and bus. As long as I know the route, I can get there. If I need to learn a new route, BALANCE is only one phone call away (which is a HUGE plus for me). Not only that, BALANCE helped me secure my current employment.


Tiffany

My name is Tiffany and I was referred to BALANCE back in May, 2017. One of the BALANCE programs that I’ve benefited greatly from is their Sharing Spaces Support group, which is professionally facilitated by a qualified Social Worker who is blind. Through the support group, I received compassion, understanding and hope. Because of BALANCE, I was able to receive the support that I need. Without BALANCE I would have likely fallen through the cracks. Most agencies don’t recognize me as a client because I have a unique vision impairment in which I’m extremely sensitive to light. In complete darkness I have 20/20 vision, but for the majority of the day, I have extreme difficulty with my vision. This is why BALANCE has been has been such an amazing service for someone like myself.


Sheldon

I’m Sheldon and I lost my sight in 2011. Shortly after in 2016, I was referred to BALANCE because I needed employment support. I do Administration work as well as Data Entry, and without the hands-on support I received from the amazing BALANCE staff, I don’t know what I would be doing today. They were, and still are, a HUGE part of my work success. BALANCE was the one agency that came to my office and worked alongside me to set up the ZoomText software I needed to make my computer accessible and continued to come to my office. My relationship with BALANCE continues to grow and  Because of BALANCE, I plan on working with staff who will help me with career planning.


Quassim

I’m Quassim and 2 years ago I came to learn about BALANCE through a visually impaired colleague. Since becoming a client of BALANCE, I’ve benefited greatly from their Assistive Technology training and workshops. I’ve enjoyed learning keyboarding skills, voice over, how to access my email… the list goes on. Technology limits the barriers to communication and because of BALANCE I feel even more connected with family and friends since learning these skills. I’m currently not taking any classes but as soon I want to learn something new, I know they’re only a phone call away. BALANCE staff are so friendly and accommodating and very supportive. Because of BALANCE, I’ve learned how to order wheel trans, use an Uber, and to get around the city more independently as a whole.


Lisa

My name is Lisa and I came to BALANCE because I was looking for an accessible yoga class to channel my energy into more exercise. It just felt easy because I didn’t have to negotiate accessibility. I just had to focus on the yoga, and not worry about whether or not I’m understanding the teacher correctly. Since then, I’ve come to BALANCE for a number of services. I found that BALANCE was more specifically tailored to my needs with the community engagement support piece that isn’t offered at other agencies. When I needed help moving, BALANCE was there. Because of BALANCE I felt confident and organized moving into my new home. They helped me sort through years worth of stuff and found community resources that made me more comfortable living in my new location.


Michael

I’m Michael and I was first referred to BALANCE about 4 years ago for their independent living services. My introduction later branched out into mobility training and technology instruction. I’ve always appreciated that BALANCE hires instructors who are also blind or visually impaired. I find I can relate to their teaching styles  because the very skills I am learning are skills they personally rely on every day. Anyone with a disability can relate to feeling like you’re always trying to catch up, so going into school with the tech knowledge and confidence that I had definitely smoothed the transition and enhanced my overall experience. Because of BALANCE I feel that my voice as a blind person is being heard and that my concerns as a blind individual are addressed. BALANCE make me feel more represented in the community and I have a feeling this small community we’ve created together encourages those who feel lost and forgotten to strive for more.


Joseph

My name is Joseph and my experience with BALANCE all started back in 2003, when Doug, their Assistive Technology Instructor was helping me at my residence. I was at the University of Toronto Mississauga taking Computer Coding and I found that my professor and tutor didn’t know how to adjust or explain the course content to meet my specific needs. Doug would help me with my assignments, he taught me so much about coding. Since then, I’ve taken a number of BALANCE workshops and training including independent living skills, Excel training, the Blind Square course, and the Pre-employment Program just to name a few. Because of Balance I always feel connected to and supported by my community. It makes a difference that BALANCE hires instructors who are also blind or visually impaired because they personally understand the limitations of technology and are able to adjust content to meet individual needs.


Bruno

I’m Bruno and many years ago I was working for The Canadian National Institute for the Blind. While I was out in the community as an Independent Skills Specialist, I would often refer clients to BALANCE to fill in the gaps that CNIB was missing, like urgent services including Orientation and Mobility Training. BALANCE provides a number of unique programs and services. The BALANCE team is also very responsive. After I retired, I began taking Technology Instruction with them because they have instructors who are very passionate. In fact, my wife did the same thing. Because of BALANCE I’m much more comfortable in maneuvering around the internet using JAWS. Now I can download books or place online orders. Their community aid, referral services, and health and wellness programs also stand out to me. Through their weekly newsletter, my wife and I discovered a 4 week meditation class being offered at the Library.


Anne-Marie

My name is Anne-Marie and I’ve been coming to BALANCE for Technology Instruction for the past year, ever since I was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Before my diagnosis, I was very dependent on my computer for day-to-day tasks and I knew that Assistive Technology was something I would have to learn. My instructor has been so helpful to me through this journey. I had purchased a new desktop so the first thing we tackled together was adjusting the fonts, colour, and magnification. Currently I’m learning to use ZoomText. One aspect of BALANCE that I really value as a client is that their service is individualized and that they’re really flexible in terms of scheduling. They always say, “let’s make it work for you”. Because of BALANCE I’ve slowly been able to adjust to my vision loss by learning new technology. BALANCE has been an incredible support for me.


Staff Stories

Learn a little more about BALANCE’s dedicated and compassionate staff.

Naomi Hazlett, Occupational Therapist

I recently joined the BALANCE team and was immediately impressed by the workplace culture. As a new OT, I found that my expertise and opinions were respected. I was the first Occupational Therapist that BALANCE has ever hired and I was given the autonomy to build the role from the ground up. I assist clients to set goals and then work towards overcoming the barriers in their lives. These might include getting their homes organized, working out at the local gym, or finding safe and affordable housing, among many others.

Because of BALANCE, when I can help a client overcome something that might seem trivial or mundane to others but makes a world of difference to the everyday life of that client, I feel joy and satisfaction in the role. For example, I have a client who felt like she’d reached a point of no return with the amount of clutter in her home. Something as simple as accompanying her to the dollar store to buy bins and then organizing them made a huge difference to the functionality of her home as well as eliminating a lot of the anxieties she had about the clutter in her home.


Eleanor Lobo-Lee, Volunteer Coordinator

After many years as a community, school and hospital volunteer, and with a background in business management, I recently went back to school to gain a Certificate in Volunteer Management Leadership. I joined BALANCE in late summer, 2018. At our small-but-mighty organization, our front line providers serve clients with customized instruction in Assistive Technology, Orientation & Mobility, Occupational Therapy and group classes. Personally, I am in awe of how BALANCE’s individualized client attention makes a difference in the ability to seek employment & educational opportunities, promote independence & mobility, and enjoy community leisure activities independently. However, the reality is that only about 30% of blind adults are employed and many have incomes that are astoundingly low, at average under $20K/yr. BALANCE’s instruction boosts skills for these valuable society members. Because of BALANCE I’ve launched a career to help improve my little corner of the world.


Bill Phung, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

When I was a student at Mohawk College at the orientation mobility instructor program, I was first introduced to BALANCE for Blind Adults when specialists came in to present to the class. After graduating from my program, I applied and BALANCE was my first job out of college. The rest is history. Five years have flown by, I’m still on the BALANCE team and loving every second of it, so much so that I didn’t even realize this much time had passed. Because of BALANCE, Every day is interesting and different and I get an opportunity to help each client with their own unique challenges and goals. I’m passionate about helping others achieve their goals regardless of what that may be.


Doug Poirier, Assistive Technology Instructor

I’ve been working for BALANCE since 2001. This was the beginning of the adaptive technology program and 17 years later it’s still going strong. I like to think that BALANCE is a leader in assistive technology training/instruction. BALANCE gives blind and visually impaired individuals a choice. We are equipped to meet the needs of a more diverse population and we always do our best to help everyone who comes our way.

One of the challenges that I enjoy while teaching is creating the course material and having the know-how to adapt it to student needs. I also enjoy teaching office skills. It’s not only about dealing with inaccessibility in the workplace, being work ready with the proper social skills, right attitude and confidence is just as important.Around 10 to 20 years ago, technology was reserved for a small group of individuals who could afford the adaptive technology and had the skill to use it properly. Times have changed and companies, like Apple, have focused on making out-of-the-box technology completely accessible with built in tools for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. This makes technology much more affordable and people are more willing to try. Its rewarding when you can teach some who has the technological knowledge and skills but doesn’t know how to integrate this knowledge into their own life as an independent person. There will always be challenges and I’m here to fill in the gaps where I can, or at least provide people with the lasting tools to do so themselves.


Anita Laurnitus, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

Eleven years ago I joined the BALANCE team because I was attracted to the small, dedicated force that was doing incredible things for the community of blind persons in Toronto. We are grassroots which gives us an advantage because we are nimble and less bureaucratic. There are no long wait lists, clients can call me directly to schedule a lesson, and we are always accommodating with our scheduling. The autonomy we have over our work and the overall flexibility of the organization allows us to provide individualized supports to the diverse population that we serve.

Some of my instruction includes helping clients create and plan travel routes, analyze and identify intersections to understand traffic patterns, and use public transportation. One of the most challenging, but at the same time rewarding, aspects of my job is teaching clients personal safety on the streets. Sometimes a client and I will spend months learning and practicing a travel route and when it finally clicks and they learn the traffic patterns, you can see their confidence when they can independently cross the street. Recently one of my clients learned how to travel independently within his condo using the elevator. Something as simple as navigating the elevator panel can be extremely challenging for a blind or visually impaired individual who has never been taught how to do so. For months, with over 30 floors on the panel, this individual was reliant on the help of others in his building. After one lesson of about 2 hours, he’s able to locate and push the buttons he needs to travel freely in his building. He was so pleased.

Knowing that I’m teaching clients lifelong skills that enable them to cross busy streets, get to their destinations safely, or navigate their own home or condo building with confidence, is a privilege.


Chelsea Mohler, Assistive/Adaptive Technology Instructor

As a staff member with lived experience, I have first-hand knowledge of other agencies in Toronto and what I feel truly makes BALANCE different is that as soon as you walk through our doors you feel welcomed. We’re small, intimate, and friendly. All of us are willing to go the extra mile to support you.  As an instructor, I feel the proudest when my students are able to take what they’ve learned and teach and empower each other to improve their technical skills.

As a young woman, something that I value in this workplace is that BALANCE provides leadership opportunities for women with disabilities. The BALANCE leadership team has mentored me and our E.D. recognizes what her staff need to succeed not only at BALANCE but outside of the workplace as well.