Dr. Deborah Gold and the Team at BALANCE for Blind Adults Awarded the 2022 President’s Award

This year we mark the bestowal of the 11th Annual President’s Award, which is given to an individual, organization, or entity that in their work or service with or for the blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted has made a real difference in improving the quality of life of the members of this community. One of this year’s President’s Award recipients is the team at BALANCE for Blind Adults and its Executive Director of six years, Dr. Deborah Gold.

Since first opening its doors in Toronto in 1986, BALANCE has taken a fresh approach to supporting people who are blind or partially-sighted in living independently and engaging with their communities. BALANCE began as a community living environment for young adults and over the years has maintained a focus on fostering selfreliance and facilitating clients’ connection to community resources. In its 30-plus year history, BALANCE has expanded its offerings thanks to funding from the Government of Ontario, grants, and donations. Its unique services now include community engagement, counselling, occupational therapy, orientation and mobility training, and technology training. “One thing that has remained constant and that really continues to be difference-making is that at BALANCE, we support the whole person,” says Dr. Gold.

BALANCE’s clients are amongst the most vulnerable within the vision-impaired community. Almost half (48 percent) of its clients last year had no functional vision, as compared to 10 percent of people with sight loss in Canada and worldwide. “Our clients often have additional challenges, too – disabilities, other physical and mental health conditions, social isolation, speaking English as a second language, and limited financial means,” says Dr. Gold.

BALANCE’s distinctive service offerings are a reflection of the diverse community it serves and its commitment to that community and its members’ complex needs. BALANCE’s occupational therapy, for example, is unique in Canada, and was introduced to support clients faced with challenges related to daily living, communications, ableism, poverty, and more. BALANCE has also been making progressively notable strides with its mental health supports, and now includes a specialist with lived experience amongst its staff along with confidential group and individualized counselling. BALANCE’s holistic, allencompassing services and supports are truly innovative.

“We make sure that our values – inclusion, respect, empathy, trust, and independence – are incorporated into everything we do,” says Dr. Gold. “We have an amazing team that I’m so proud of. They really put the clients first. We also have a strong volunteer program.”

Dr. Gold herself is an expert in engaging partners and collaborators, developing and leading staff teams, coaching staff and volunteers, and managing multiple strategic projects. Before joining BALANCE, she worked for 16 years at the CNIB in progressively advanced roles, most recently as its National Director of Research and Program Development.

Fuelled by this dedicated team and driven by Dr. Gold’s visionary leadership, BALANCE continually innovates and evolves. In response to the pandemic, the organization immediately pivoted to virtual learning for its technology training program and mental health support groups, and launched a tele-support service to connect with isolated clients. By the fall of 2020, BALANCE had dramatically increased the number of online activities, events, and groups offered to its clients, and had established partnerships with a theatre company, musician, the Royal Ontario Museum, and others to provide engaging online programming for the BALANCE community. BALANCE also launched its monthly Living Blind Podcast in late 2020, as well as its Assistive Technology Apprenticeship Program. “There’s a shortage of assistive tech instructors in the field, so we decided to start a ‘grow-your-own’ approach,” says Dr. Gold. “This program increases employment opportunities for people with sight loss while also fulfilling our need to teach others. It’s a win-win-win – for BALANCE, for the community, and for people with sight loss.”

Throughout the pandemic, BALANCE also worked to address issues of social isolation and food insecurity, and launched a comprehensive vaccine education and engagement program.

The team at BALANCE continues to push boundaries with its programming, innovation, client supports, partnerships, and reach. “Our staff, Board, and volunteer team are the reason we can achieve these new heights each year, and we’re so very proud to receive this recognition of our work,” says Dr. Gold.

In bestowing the 2022 President’s Award, the Canadian Council of the Blind commends Dr. Gold and the team at BALANCE, and offers our continuing support to their vision, inspiration, and commitment to supporting independence and wellness within the vision loss community.

New Partnership Supports Paid Training and Employment for Youth and Young Adults

BALANCE and CCRW (Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work) are very pleased to announce a first-time United Way-funded partnership to provide customized support to young adults living with sight loss to participate in…

Youth the Future (YTF) Scarborough!!

A Pre-employment Training Program for Youth living with disability, aged 15-30*

Youth the Future (YTF) is a pre-employment training program through the CCRW. Youth with disabilities, with barriers to employment, are provided job-readiness training and are assisted and supported to find ongoing, entry-level work in Toronto, including Scarborough.

Do You…

  • Have a SIN card?
  • Have basic reading/writing skills?
  • Have a positive attitude?

Are You…

  • Between the ages of 15-30?
  • Not on EI?
  • Unemployed?

This program includes:

6 weeks of PAID, in-class job readiness training:

  • Learn how to effectively job search
  • Interview techniques
  • Create resumes and cover letters
  • Learn all the skills and knowledge you need to be successful in today’s workplace


14 weeks of PAID employment (min 25 hours/week):

  • We support and empower you throughout the transition
  • Continuous feedback and coaching, on-the-job
  • Support to your employer
  • Weekly PAID classroom training throughout

If you live with sight loss, you will receive direct support within both the in-class and on-the-job training, from a dedicated project staff member, in addition to the support and training provided by the YTF program staff.

To learn more and/or to apply, please contact:

Cristina Lopes, Program Facilitator/Job Developer

The Insight Project

BALANCE for Blind Adults



* The YTF Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Skills Link program.

BALANCE Annual General Meeting

Please PLAN TO ATTEND our BALANCE Annual General Meeting!

When: Monday, June 17, 2019 at 4:30 PM
Where: Swansea Town Hall, Council Chamber (95 Lavinia Ave, Toronto)
Welcome Remarks: Bhutila Karpoche, MPP, Parkdale-High Park

Featured Speaker: Dr. Keith Gordon, Head of Research, New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, and VP (Retired) Research, CNIB
Title of the talk: “Thank goodness I’m not going crazy. I just have Charles Bonnet Syndrome”

Following the talk, will be our annual meeting, including reports from our Board Chair Bob Stark and our Executive Director, Deborah Gold, on all of our proud achievements of the past fiscal year. A report on our finances will also be included.

A light supper will be served.

RSVP to or call 416-236-1796, ext. 0 to reserve  your seat. Please respond by June 10 if you plan to attend, so that we can order the correct amount of food. All clients and other stakeholders are welcome!

BALANCE wishes to thank Accessible Media Inc. for their sponsorship of the refreshments for this event.

BALANCE Announces our Spring 2019 Group Courses and Workshops!

East End Sharing Space Support Group (ending May 31)

BALANCE is offering a Sharing Space Support Group led by Lisa Derencinovic (more info about Lisa below).
When: Friday afternoons from 2:00-4:00 PM
Where: at The Healing Collective at 2005 Danforth Avenue, on the south side of the street, less than a block from Woodbine Subway Station.

Last meeting: Friday May 31, 2019

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.

Registration and more information: contact Radka at or (416) 236-1796 X 0.

Relax and Learn: Anxiety and Stress Management Course (April 29, 6 weeks)

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 our Anxiety and Stress Management 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 re-frame 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 Mondays at 4 PM starting April 29 and ending on June 10.

Registrar: Naomi Hazlett, 416-236-1796, ext. 229, or

First-Ever Toronto Self-Defense Course for Blind Adults! (May 4, 7 weeks)
Register now to secure a spot!!

When: 7 Saturday afternoons in May and June at 1 – 3:30 PM

  1. Saturday, May 4
  2. Saturday, May 11
  3. Saturday, May 18
  4. Saturday, May 25 (1 week skipped)
  5. Saturday, June 8
  6. Saturday, June 15
  7. Saturday, June 22

Location: West Toronto Support Services (1709 Bloor St. W.)

Certification: Each participant who completes the course will get a Certificate from us.

Registration fee: There will be a $40 deposit (collected at the first lesson). If you attend all or 6/7 classes, you will get $40 back, if you attend 5/7 classes, you will get $20 back.

To register: contact Radka at or (416) 236-1796 X 0 to secure a spot! (Please note there is limited space in this course.)

Description: This amazing course will be run by Alexis Fabricius, a self-defense instructor and violence prevention specialist. Over the course of this series of workshops, participants will learn self-defense basics, have an opportunity to build some essential foundational skills for personal defense and have the opportunity to ask questions in a safe space, about personal safety and violence that are relevant to them.

BALANCE is pleased to acknowledge the financial support of The Arthur and Audrey Cutten Foundation in making this course possible.

Unlocking the power of Google Maps, BlindSquare and Bluetooth beacon technology Course (May 3, 3 sessions)

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, this course may be just what you require to fulfill this goal!

When: Beginning Friday, May 3, from 9:30 – 12:30, at the BALANCE office – 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:

  1. At the BALANCE for Blind Adults office, 2340 Dundas Street West, Suite G-06, May 10, from 9:30 – 12:00, OR, 1:30 – 4:00.  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.
  2. At the CNIB Hub, located at 1525 Yonge Street, May 17, from 9:30 – 12:00, OR, 1:30 – 4:00.  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 certified Orientation and Mobility instructors.
In all, including the workshop, participants are expected to attend 3 sessions over 3 weeks resulting in a strong understanding of how to use Google Maps along with BlindSquare to enhance both outdoor and indoor navigation.
Those wishing to participate must:

  • Be an efficient user of iPhone, iOS and the VoiceOver screen reader
  • Have previously purchased a licensed copy of BlindSquare and have on their device the latest version of the software
  • Have installed on their device the latest version of Google Maps

If you are interested in attending, please contact Anita Laurnitus, X228, or Doug Poirier X224.

Dialogue with a Dietitian! (May 21, 1 session)

Are you ready to refresh your nutritional knowledge this spring? This is the chance to learn from an expert, find out about ongoing nutritional resources and groups in the community, and munch a few healthy goodies in a comfortable group discussion.

Where: BALANCE office, 2340 Dundas St. west, Unit G-06, call for directions

When: Tuesday May 21, 1:30-3:00 PM, Multi-purpose room

Dietitian: Paige To, RD, MAN, The Four Villages Community Health Centre

Yoga is Back at BALANCE–in the East End! (May 24, 12 sessions)

Are you interested in learning more about the practice of Yoga but have difficulty following the directions of an instructor?  Well, BALANCE has just the course for you.

When: Start your weekend off right! Starting May 24 from 12:30 until 2:00 PM. The course runs for 12 weeks and ends on Friday, August 23, long weekends not included.

Where: East end of the city at The Healing Collective (2005 Danforth Avenue)

Participants will relax and de-stress with mild stretches thereby gaining relief from aches and pains associated with muscular tension. You will reinforce their independence and mobility through balance practices and increase energy and confidence through body resistance strength training. Your course runs from 12:30 until 2:00 PM.  Conveniently timed before our “Sharing Space Support Group”, this program will be a nice complement to your mind/spirit health sessions! You are encouraged to wear comfortable, stretchy clothing and running shoes for ease of movement. Taught by Fazia Ackbarali, a professional therapeutic yoga and certified fitness instructor who has been teaching for BALANCE for almost 3 years.

IMPORTANT: there will be no classes on Friday, June 28 and Friday, August 2nd.  If you have any questions about the location, or may need assistance with orientation and mobility routes, please contact our front desk.

Please note, we are asking all participants to pay a $25 deposit fee to secure their spot. If you attend 10 or more classes, your $25 deposit will be returned to you.

How to register: contact Radka at or (416) 236-1796 X 0 (limited spaces, contact us now to secure your spot).


BALANCE Announces Our Winter 2019 Groups! (All Programs are Free of Charge)

Introducing…A Close Knit Group

Do you have a knitting project you are working on and want that boost of motivation to get it finished? Are you interested in becoming more skilled in your knitting, but not sure where to locate accessible patterns? Well, BALANCE has just an intermediate knitting group just for you! We are pleased to offer an 8 week knitting group. Each week, the facilitator will bring a topic of interest to knitters, to launch the discussion.

When: Thursdays, Starts: Thursday, Feb 7, 2019. Ends: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Time: 10:00 AM until 11:30 A.M.

Location: BALANCE offices (2340 Dundas St. W, unit G06) and runs from , Multi-purpose room.

Facilitator: Neena Avery

About Neena: I’ve been knitting since 1991, at the age of 17. One reason I wanted to run the knitting group at Balance is to bring blind knitters together to solve problems and discuss their knitting in a supportive context. Knitting a piece of fabric makes a difference in the world because it gives the knitter a sense of accomplishment. I have a guide dog called Fargo from Guiding Eyes.

Please bring your knitting project, patterns, and supplies with you. Your own water bottle is a good idea too.

To register, please contact Eleanor at or 416.236.1796 X. 0.

Happy Stitching!

Encore! Sharing Space Support Group–West End (East End group will start soon!)

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, room is available from 12:30-3:30 p.m.

First meeting: Wednesday Feb. 6, 2019

Last meeting: Wednesday April 24, 2019

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.

Balancing the Power!–A Discussion Group for Women

Are you interested in connecting with other women living with vision loss?  Are you interested in learning more about issues facing women with vision loss in our urban community? 

BALANCE is excited to announce we are hosting a discussion group for women, facilitated by Chelsea Mohler (Community Engagement Specialist and Assistive Technology instructor at Balance) who lives with vision loss and who has experience facilitating groups for clients living with vision loss.

Start Date: Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2019
End Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Time: 2-4 PM
Location: TBA

The theme of this series is empowerment of women who are blind and partially sighted, through discussion of key issues in a safe and supportive setting. This group will address issues such as: networking as someone with vision loss; Self-Defense; managing stress and anxiety; self-esteem and body image; and relationships and dating as a person with a visual disability.  Come on out and check out the group! If interested, please contact Chelsea at or 416.236.1796, ext. 225 for more information or to sign up. Registration deadline: January 15, 2019

Learning the iPhone as a Blind User

The goal of this 6 week course is to help participants to demonstrate knowledge of the basic functions of the iPhone and provide participants with the skills and confidence to become independent with their mobile device.

Start Date: Thursday, Feb 7, 2019 End Date: March 14, 2019. Time: 2-4 PM

Registration: call Doug at BALANCE, ext. 224, or email him at

Registration deadline: January 25, 2019

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the basic orientation of the phone (including how to turn it on and off and locate the sleep/wake functions).
  • Make and receive calls and send/receive text messages.
  • Add and edit contacts.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of how to access the App Store and ITunes Store.
  • Navigate the Calendar and Reminder Applications and,
  • State 5 benefits and uses of applications to enhance independent living.

Navigating Wheel-Trans (Course offered by Phone)

Are you considering applying for Wheel-Trans 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 awful hold music?   Do you have Wheel-Trans and want to book using your iPhone on-the-go?

This trio of teleconferences will allow you to get the information all without leaving your house!  Tune in and learn how to apply for Wheel-Trans, book online,  and book using a Smart phone.  You need only take part in the workshops that pertain to your situation.

Dates: Tuesdays, January 15, 22 and 29       Time: 6:30-8 PM

Dial-In Info will be provided upon registration.

Register: Chelsea at ext. 225 or

Registration deadline: Please sign up no later than 5 business days before each workshop. Spots are limited so make sure to register soon so you can optimize your chances of getting where you want to go during the upcoming winter season.

*Because of BALANCE* fundraising campaign is a “smashing” success!

Because of BALANCE 2022

Donate to the 2022 Because of BALANCE! Read this year’s participants stories.

Because of BALANCE 2023

From World Sight Day, October 11 to Remembrance Day, November 11, 2018, BALANCE for Blind Adults held our first-ever peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Called “Because of BALANCE”, the campaign highlighted clients’  stories about why they are grateful for BALANCE programs and services. BALANCE is so very pleased to announce that we raised $15,644, effectively more than tripling our goal of $5000!

BALANCE gratefully acknowledges the participation of our amazing client and staff fundraisers, and the many donors who contributed to this campaign. In doing so, they have directly strengthened our group programming for this fiscal year, making it possible for us to increase these opportunities for our clients.

Part way through the campaign, an anonymous donor stepped forward with the offer to match any funds raised in the last 12 days of the campaign. This gesture resulted in a steep rise in participation and significantly contributed to the incredible success of the campaign, and we are truly grateful.

The impact of these funds is significant. Here are a few examples of the direct impact of these funds:

  • $800 pays for 6 weeks of our extremely successful psycho-social support group
  • $2500 will permit us to bring in an expert to run a self-defense program (oft-requested by clients)
  • $800 covers the cost of a 10 week adapted yoga program
  • $600 will pay guest experts to make special presentations and provide workshops to clients, and
  • $3000 will pay for 5 front line staff to take part in professional development opportunities

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, orientation and mobility,  community engagement and daily living skills. BALANCE recognizes that each client goal is unique and we are 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.

To read our fundraisers’ stories, click

This campaign has ended for this year, but you can still donate! Click

Donor Steps Forward to Support #becauseofBALANCE Campaign!

With just 12 days to go in our extremely successful campaign to build awareness of our clients’ successes and raise funds to support our excellent programs, a wonderful donor has come forward to make us an offer we can’t refuse! Every dollar raised through the campaign, from now (October 30, noon) until the end of the campaign (November 11, midnight), will be matched by this incredibly generous donor! This means that if you donate in the next 12 days and 12 hours, you will double the impact of your donation! To read our clients’ stories, spread the word, or make a donation easily, please click here. OR, call our office at 416-236-1796, ext. 0 and ask for Eleanor.

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, call the office.

Location: Please call the office

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

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

Cost: No Charge.


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!

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