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BALANCE offers year-round Strength and Stability training program!

BALANCE is pleased to announce that we have established a partnership with Davenport-Perth Community Health Centre in order to bring you an excellent Strength and Stability Fitness Program, tailored to meet the needs of blind or partially sighted person who are over 40 years of age.

Description: A great way to improve your physical fitness, this class provides an opportunity to improve cardio, strength, flexibility and balance while sitting down. It includes a brief standing falls prevention component. Taught by Fazia Ackbarali, a fitness instructor certified by Western University’s Canadian Centre for Active Aging, and the BALANCE yoga instructor, this is a pre-beginners level that will progress to beginners/intermediate level.

Day and Time: Tuesdays, (arrive 1:30 please) class starts at 1:45 and ends at 2:30, ongoing year-round (with breaks).

Location: West Toronto Support Services, Multi-purpose room, 1709 Bloor St. West, entrance off Indian Grove.

Dress: Please wear comfortable clothing such as track/yoga wear, and sneakers.

Pre-registration/Intake: Eleanor Lobo-Lee, 416-236-1796, ext. 0. Pre-registration is required!

Cost: No Charge.

 

Because of BALANCE!

BALANCE for Blind Adults is a community-based service organization that, for the past 32 years, has been providing clients in Toronto who are blind or visually impaired with instruction and support. Our staff aim to help clients achieve their personal goals related to technology, mobility and orientation, and daily living. BALANCE recognizes that each client goal is unique and is able to customize support accordingly.

That’s the BALANCE difference.

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. Many of our clients don’t know how to express their gratitude in a meaningful way, so the BALANCE team is trying something different. With a donation in honor of the BALANCE difference, clients and their networks can make a gift of gratitude that benefits staff, clients, and future clients alike. 

In honor of World Sight Day, from October 11 – November 8, BALANCE is excited to announce that we are launching our first ever peer-to-peer campaign!

The Because of BALANCE campaign is being led by incredible individuals including clients and staff members, who are each sharing their own “because of BALANCE” stories in support of BALANCE’s programs and services. You can reinforce an individual’s unique journey by supporting one of BALANCE’s many fundraisers. 100% of the proceeds will directly support the program work and dedicated staff who deliver them. In 2017-18, we provided 155 group sessions!

BALANCE relies on Ministry of Health dollars (through the Toronto Central LHIN) to cover general expenses, but when it comes to expanded group programs, enhanced technology for our training centre, and professional development opportunities for staff, BALANCE relies on grants and donations.

We hope you will join us in this new exciting adventure so that BALANCE may better serve the unique client base who come to us every year for programs and services. Thanks in advance for making a difference in the lives of people who live with vision loss and are learning technology skills so they can have the game-changing experience of equal access to information and independence.  

Please visit this link to support.

Thank you in advance for your support and participation!

BALANCE Group Programming for Fall 2018!

Hello everyone, if you are interested in participating in an instructional or support group this fall, BALANCE may have just the thing. With several successful group classes continuing, and several more new ones added, we think there is pretty much something for everyone! If you are interested in registering for a group (all listed programs are free of charge), please take note of the Registrar contact information for each program, and contact ONLY that registrar if you want to participate. Please note that you must be a client of BALANCE for Blind Adults to participate, so if you have not a current client, you will need to complete our intake process.

Here below is the list of programs and brief descriptions:

Anxiety and Stress Management

Do you feel overwhelmed and worried about life’s challenges? Need some practical strategies to deal with anxiety, worry, and stress? BALANCE for Blind Adults presents the Anxiety and Relaxation Group, a 6-week program facilitated by Naomi Hazlett, registered occupational therapist at BALANCE.

The group will meet once a week, for 6 weeks, for two hours. Group members will learn about a variety of topics on the subject of anxiety and relaxation, including:

  • What are the connections between my mind, body, and actions?
  • How can I cope when things go wrong or when I feel bad?
  • Mindfulness: what is it all about?
  • How do I deal with loss, pain, and other challenges?
  • How do I reframe and move forward?

Group members are encouraged, but not required, to share stories and work together to learn how to lead a more balanced, centered life.

The group will run Thursdays at 4pm starting October 12 and ending on November 15.

Registrar: Naomi Hazlett, 416-236-1796, ext. 229, or n.hazlett@balancefba.org

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Trio of WheelTrans Teleconference Sessions

Are you considering applying for WheelTrans and don’t know what it is or how to apply? Are you concerned the application process is not accessible, or unsure of where to locate the forms?  Are you already a Wheel-Trans user who books by phone and is tired of those long waits and never-ending hold music?   Do you have Wheel-Trans and want to book using your iPhone on-the-go?

These tele-workshops will allow you to get the information all without leaving the comfort of your own home!  Tune in to any number of this terrific trio of workshops and learn about everything from how to apply for Wheel-Trans, to how to book online, to how to book using a Smart phone.  This series will run on 3 consecutive Tuesdays, starting on October 2 from 6:30-8:00p.m.  These information packed workshops allot ample time for your questions to be answered!

All workshops start at 6:30 p.m. SHARP and end at 8:00 p.m.

Course Schedule:

October 2: The WheelTrans Application; October 9: Booking Your Trips Online; October 16: Booking WT with your iPhone

You need only take part in the workshops that pertain to your situation.

This trio will be co-facilitated by BALANCE assistive technology instructors (and experienced workshop facilitators) Chelsea Mohler and Rosie Arcuri. Each session will begin with a quick review of how to use available teleconference technologies for maximum benefit.

Registrar: Rosie Arcuri, ext. 230, r.arcuri@balancefba.org

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Personal Safety Workshop

Are you interested in becoming a more confident traveler but want to understand how to be street-smart in your travels? Do you want to explore new parts of the city but not sure how to do this safely? Would you like to learn some basic self-defense techniques to feel more secure when out alone?  BALANCE is pleased to offer a 3 part workshop on personal safety co-facilitated by Chelsea Mohler (Community Engagement Lead/Assistive Technology Specialist) and Anita Laurnitus (Orientation and Mobility Specialist). This three part series will take place for three consecutive weeks on the 13, 20 and 27 of September from 1:30-3:00 at the BALANCE office (2340 Dundas St. W, unit G-06). This workshop series features two guest presentations: Alexis Fabricius (certified self-defense instructor), and the Toronto Police Service, 11 Division.

Course Schedule:

September 13: Tips for becoming a street-smart traveler; safety applications; understanding how to request safe transportation (Orientation and Mobility Instructor/Community Engagement Specialist).

September 20: Self-Defense hands-on workshop; practical safety considerations; role-playing scenarios (Self Defense expert).

September 27: Cyber Safety; considerations for being safe in your home; emergency and non-emergency numbers (Toronto Police Service).

Registrar: Anita Laurnitus, ext. 228, a.laurnitus@balancefba.org

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Job Seekers Group

  • Have you been trying to find something but feel discouraged and want to re-energize your search?
  • Do you want a job but don’t know where to start?
  • Do you want to discuss topics such as disclosure, accommodation, barrios to employment, understanding the job search process and more?
  • Are you looking to explore what career is right for you and what new

Skills you need to learn to make your dreams a reality?

BALANCE for Blind Adults is offering its first Job Seekers Group! This eight week group will include information, problem solving, discussion, goal setting and guest speakers. Group facilitator Rosie Arcuri is an Assistive Technology Instructor at BALANCE for blind Adults. As someone who was born legally blind, Rosie is passionate about helping others with vision loss achieve their goals. She has worked in the disability community for over 6 years. In this time she has facilitated many workshops, co-facilitated two pre-employment programs. Rosie has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Human Relations.

Day and Time:  The group will be held each Wednesdays from September 19th to November 7th from 1:30 to 4:00p.m.

Location:  BALANCE Multi-purpose Room

Registrar: Rosie Arcuri 416-236-1796, ext. 230.  Registration is required and spaces are limited.
Registration Deadline: September 14, 2018.

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Trio of Typing Tutorials: Hotkey Basics

Balance is pleased to offer a series of workshop designed to help clients who want to improve their typing, and learn windows hotkeys. A better knowledge of the keyboard and of windows hotkeys can have various benefits including increased speed and accuracy and reducing time energy and frustration if you are constantly looking for your mouse. Whether you are new to vision loss, want to start using hotkeys or want to improve your keyboarding skills this series is for you.

Topics will include reviewing the function keys on the keyboard, navigating the desktop, basic file management, basic formatting, Internet specific hotkeys and more.

Workshops will be held September 20th, September 27th and October 4th on Thursdays from 6:00-7:30p.m.  The workshops will take place at the BALANCE office on 2340 Dundas St. W. Please note places are limited! First come first served.

Registrar: To register contact Rosie by email at r.arcuri@balancefba.org or by phone at 416-237-1796 ext.: 230.

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Unlocking the power of Google Maps, BlindSquare and Bluetooth beacon technology

Are you an independent traveler?

Are you looking to further that independence?

Do you use an iPhone?

Have you purchased BlindSquare in the hopes that it would enhance your mobility experience?

If so, these presentations may be just what you require to fulfill this goal.

Beginning Friday October 5 from 9:30 – 12:00, at BALANCE. We are presenting a workshop focusing on how to get the most from BlindSquare together with Google Maps navigation.

As a follow-up to the workshop, there are two practical components you are expected to attend.

  • At the BALANCE office 2340 Dundas Street West Suite G-06 October 19, from 9:30 – 12:00 AM, or, 1:00 – 3:30 PM.

Here you will be taken on a one-on-one walk-about with one of our O&M instructors where you will learn how to apply several BlindSquare and Google Map tools meant to enhance street navigation and route orientation.

  • At the CNIB Hub located at 1525 Yonge Street October 26th, from 9:30 – 12:00, or 1:00 – 3:30.

Here you will learn how to use BlindSquare together with its beacon technology designed to enhance indoor navigation.

You are expected to attend only the morning or afternoon time slots for these one-on-one sessions and depending on availability, it is your preference as to which ones work best for you.

The instructors leading the presentation are Doug Poirier Adaptive Technology instructor, and Anita Laurnitus and Bill Phung both Orientation and Mobility instructors.

In all, participants should come away with a strong understanding of how to use Google Maps along with BlindSquare to enhance both outdoor and indoor navigation.

Registrars: If you are interested in attending, please contact Anita Laurnitus a.laurnitus@balancefba.org, X228, or Doug Poirier d.poirier@balancefba.org X224.

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Sharing Space Support Group

BALANCE will be offering our Sharing Space Support Group, with Lisa Derencinovic, MSW, on Wednesday afternoons from 1:00-3:00 p.m. from , 2018 at the West Toronto Support Services, located at 1709 Bloor Street West, side entrance off Indian Grove (please tell WheelTrans the side entrance off Indian Grove).

Nearest Subway station: Keele Station. Lisa Derencinovic has agreed to return in order to facilitate her extremely popular “Sharing Space Support Group” for those BALANCE clients who have not yet had an opportunity to share with others and benefit from Lisa’s experience and superb facilitation skills. The feedback from participants in the past 3 groups has been excellent. The group is shaped around the concerns of participants, with some structured topics built in to every session. Participants will spend 12 weeks getting to know each other, sharing experiences and learning from each other.

Detailed information:

12 sessions, each lasting 2 hours, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. please plan to arrive on time

First meeting: Wednesday Sept. 26

Last meeting: Wednesday Dec. 12

Discussions could include: understanding ableism, effects on self-esteem, dealing with negative emotions, and building strength and resilience.

The group will be facilitated by a registered Social Worker, Lisa Derencinovic. Lisa runs her own counselling practice specializing in working with people with disabilities. She has also facilitated many groups throughout her career. Lisa knows first-hand the experience of living with visual impairment, having been diagnosed at age 4 with a genetic eye disease causing blindness.

Group minimum-5, group maximum-10. First come, first served.

Registrar: Rosie Arcuri, 416-236-1796, ext. 230, or r.arcuri@balancefba.org

Arif Virani, MP, interviews BALANCE staff about our Canada Summer Jobs experience

BALANCE is proud to receive the support of our Federal Member of Parliament, Arif Virani, Parkdale-High Park, and all of his wonderful office staff.  Thank-you for dropping by to meet our #canadasummerjobs student and learn more about BALANCE!

Canada Summer Jobs visit with BALANCE for Blind Adults

#ParkHP residents: this week I am highlighting a few of the amazing organizations I had the opportunity to visit over the summer that participated in the #CanadaSummerJobs program as we gear up for #backtoschool!Today, I highlight Balance for Blind Adults: an organization right here in our community working to ensure people with vision loss live a quality life full of opportunities and free of social barriers. I had the pleasure to talk to Deborah, Chelsea, and their Canada Summer Jobs student Sam about the work they’ve been doing – check out our interview to learn more!Tune in tomorrow for a new Canada Summer Jobs interview!

Posted by Arif Virani on Monday, August 27, 2018

Students Say Thanks and Good-Bye, Summer, 2018

What we have learned this summer at BALANCE for Blind Adults has far exceeded our expectations.

As students who aspire to have careers in health care, our experiences have broadened our perspectives and knowledge of working with individuals with vision impairments. With the help of the staff and clients at BALANCE, we have become more cognizant of various barriers and as such, strive for inclusion and accessibility in our future career, as well as personal lives. We feel empowered to become advocates for people with vision impairments by educating others about opportunities to create more inclusive communities.

Prior to working at BALANCE, we had very limited exposure to working with individuals with blindness or low vision. It was a big learning curve and it hadn’t occurred to us that there had been so many advancements in the field of low vision and blindness. We realize that every day we take for granted the tools that many people with visions impairments rely on for independence. Just to name a few; Google Home, Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. As well, one of the main learning takeaways from this experience is that the key to a meaningful life is having connections in the community. We have learned that through partnerships with various organizations we can better support our clients and achieve that goal.

As sighted people, we have become more aware of existing features in our community that promote independence and safe travel for people with vision loss. For example, pedestrian crossing activators and the tactile bumps in subway stations. By being more aware of these necessities, we can play our part in reporting to authorities when these tools are not functioning and/or assist someone, if they wish.

We encourage students to apply for positions at Not- for-Profit Organizations because you will be surrounded by some of the hardest working, dedicated and kind people in existence. It is evident that the staff at BALANCE work as hard as they do because they truly care about making a difference in their clients’ lives. Thank you to the staff  and clients at BALANCE for teaching us all that you have and showing us the importance of working with passion and the impact that you can make on someone else’s life.

 

Sam and Tal

Technology and Persons with Disabilities

My Vision of Driving—yes, you heard me right!

A decade ago, if you had told me I could write, edit and publish an entire document on a touch screen device with braille and a screen reader and a simple piece of glass, and that I could do my grocery shopping with the touch of an app, bank independently, call myself an Uber, or simply start my smart coffee maker from my iPhone, I’d have stared at you in open-mouthed incredulity. Communicators in Star Trek couldn’t do some of those things! Okay, the Enterprise didn’t have Amazon, but whatever. You get my point.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the possibility of smart-driving cars after a recent program on the topic on CBC Radio’s Spark (a show that discusses all kinds of technological innovations.) Anyone who knows me well knows that I really want to be in that driver’s seat—I mean, I have driven, and it’s cool.

So, what if I really could drive with the aid of technology. I mean, imagine voice activating your Alexa and saying “Alexa, order me a driverless car.” Then, she’d reply, “OK, I’ve contacted the database and sent you a driverless car; it will be here in 8 minutes. Please be waiting on the marked part of your driveway so the car can pull up safely. The car will wait until you activate the lock with the facial recognition you provided. Then, please use your fingerprint to unlock and activate the vehicle.”

And, so, what if this really happens? What if one day, I step out of my house, get into the driver’s side of my car (yes, the driver’s side) and stow my white cane safely beside me. Then, I start my car by voice print, or fingerprint. I tell my car to put on CBC Radio one or two and plug in the coordinates using my Apple GPS. My Apple watch uses haptic vibrations to tell me whether we’re turning right or left. A voice of my choice (maybe Apple’s Alex or Amazon’s Alexa) tells me where we are headed and the traffic conditions.

“Heavy traffic ahead, rerouting to Gardener Expressway.”

I have the GPS programmed to point out all coffee shops and stop with the simple voice command, “Coffee shop, need to off-rout.”

I run a couple errands, meet a friend, and as the car is driving, I periodically check the Braille Display touch map to make sure we’re okay, but the driverless car does the work for me. I sit back and read a book, listen to music, write a work report, or check out the latest CBC news on Twitter.

The thing is? That technology is starting to exist. And it’s not just for blind people. Universal inclusion was this thing people talked about over dessert 20 years ago that seemed like such a utopian idea. Now? It’s everywhere. Driverless cars are already on our roads. For some further reading on self-driving cars, check out: Driverless car benefits | Automated Transport | Self-driving Vehicles and Advantages of driverless cars – Business Insider

The days when my disability is the barrier society perceives it to be are ending, but we’re not quite there yet! We just must land this. And technology is light years ahead of the political arena to market the technology. Technology is ahead of society’s ability to let disabled people participate equally without power struggles and fear. Technology is also ahead of our own fears of our bodies, our disabilities, and our ability to say “disabled” and not have it be a bad, negative connotation word. I’m blind. I’m disabled. That does not prevent me from doing things. Those words are just legal labels and associated differences in my rights. But we’re not there yet. But, what excites me is that there is the potential to be there.

So, watch out, because I will be driving that self-driving car! See you on the road!

BALANCE and TTC Partner on New Streetcar Orientation Session

On June 26, 2018, the Toronto Transit Commission hosted BALANCE for Blind Adults for a private group orientation session for the new low floor streetcars. Twelve BALANCE service users and 5 BALANCE staff attended the exclusive session that had been organized by request of BALANCE for Blind Adults. Hosted by TTC Travel Trainer Desrianne McIlwrick, David the Driver Instructor and other TTC managers and staff, the event was hugely successful with participants rating the session as “excellent” and providing feedback that they  will now be much more confident when using the new streetcars. BALANCE thanks O and M instructor Anita Laurnitus for taking the initiative to bring this idea forward and for representing BALANCE during the organization of the event. TTC did a wonderful job of hosting, teaching and informing us all! We look forward to many more such opportunities between our two organizations in the future.

group entering the streetcar at accessible door group opportunity to explore the streetcar from front to back, and explore any features they needed togroup listening to presentation with Driver instructor looking on guide dogs resting Presto card practice with O and M instructor looking on small group chatting about streetcar features stop request button practice close up by blind participant Passenger emergency button and stop and ramp request button console participant completes survey with TTC employee group listening to presenter while seated or standing in the stationary streetcar

BALANCE Offers Year-Round Falls Prevention Program!

BALANCE is pleased to announce that we have established a partnership with Davenport-Perth Community Health Centre in order to bring you an excellent Strength and Stability Fitness Program, tailored to meet the needs of blind or partially sighted person who are over 40 years of age.

Description: A great way to improve your physical fitness, this class provides an opportunity to improve cardio, strength, flexibility and balance while sitting down. It includes a brief standing falls prevention component. Taught by Fazia Ackbarali, a fitness instructor certified by Western University’s Canadian Centre for Active Aging, and the BALANCE yoga instructor, this is a pre-beginners level that will progress to beginners/intermediate level.

 

Day and Time: Tuesdays, (arrive 1:30 please) class starts at 1:45 and ends at 2:30, ongoing year-round (with breaks).

Start date: Tuesday July 3.

Location: West Toronto Support Services, Multi-purpose room, 1709 Bloor St. West, entrance off Indian Grove.

Dress: Please wear comfortable clothing such as track/yoga wear, and sneakers.

Pre-registration: Laura Antal, 416-236-1796, ext. 0. Pre-registration is required!

Cost: No Charge.