Blog

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

Unlocking the Power of Google Maps, BlindSquare and Bluetooth Beacon Technology!

BALANCE for Blind Adults presents 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 July 6 from 9:30 – 12:00, at the West Toronto Support Services located at 1709 Bloor Street West.  (use Indian Grove entrance) we are presenting a 2 hour 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.

 

  1. At the BALANCE office 2340 Dundas Street West Suite G-06 July 13th, from 9:30 – 12:00, or, 1:00 – 3:30.

 

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.

 

  1. At the CNIB Hub located at 1525 Yonge Street July 20th 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.

 

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

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.

 

BALANCE Launches New Workshop Series for Summer 2018!

Self Care for Summer

Balance is pleased to offer a new workshop series focused on various ways to use technology and community resources to assist in personal development and self-improvement. Topics will include: fitness, goal setting, eating on a budget, and summer activities for people with visual impairments, a showdown between Alexa and Google Home and tips to enjoy Toronto’s largest public park, High Park. Workshops will be held Thursdays at 1:30p.m.– 3:30p.m. from June 7th to July 12th, 2018, at BALANCE for Blind Adults head office, 2340 Dundas St. West, Unit G-06. If you need O/M orientation prior to any of these workshops, please let Laura know.

Register for any or all of the workshops

Contact Rosie Arcuri at r.arcuri@balancefba.org or call 416-236-1796 ext. 230. Please call at least 5 working days before the workshop you would like to attend.

Healthy Hints, Fitness edition
Thursday June 7th 1:30-3:30.
Facilitators: Chelsea Mohler and Rosie Arcuri

From accessible websites to apps to wearable tech and specialized products, this workshop will focus on what you can do to improve or maintain your fitness level. This workshop will also include techniques that can allow you to get fit or stay fit regardless of your age, fitness level or visual impairment.

Goal Setting for Self-Care, Assistive Technology Community Engagement and Beyond. CANCELLED!
Thursday June 14th, 2018 from 1:30-3:30.
Facilitated by Rosie Arcuri and Naomi Hazlett

Do you have a personal, lifestyle or other goal that you are struggling to achieve? Do you want to make a change but you aren’t quite sure how to get organized and turn your desires into a reality? Do you want to understand the goal setting process? This workshop will help you with all of the above and more! Whether you already have some goals and want to learn some concrete techniques to help you achieve them or you are trying to figure out what goals you want to achieve this summer and want some help this workshop is for you!

Due to a low registration, this program is CANCELLED. 

Specialized Recreation Resources:
Thursday June 21st, 2018 from 1:30-3:30.
Facilitated by Rosie Arcuri and Chelsea Mohler

Toronto is fortunate to have many opportunities for people with visual impairments to get active, pursue wonderful hobbies, become informed and get together and be social. This workshop will focus on presenting the many resources available and give firsthand experience by current or past participants or organizers of what it is like to participate in many of these specialized groups. Examples of groups or activities include: Getting together with Technology, the Toronto Visionaries, Achilles trailblazers, hands of fire and more.

Amazon Echo (Alexa) vs Google Home,
Thursday June 28th, 2018 from 1:30-3:30,
Facilitated by Chelsea Mohler and Rosie Arcuri

Come learn what the Google Home and Alexa can do for you!  We will have a presentation of the many tasks Alexa/ Google can help you with and also have some time for you to test both devices! Come learn how these little inexpensive (60$) devices can help you stay organized, productive, entertained and relaxed!

Eating on a Budget:
Thursday July 5th 2018,
facilitated by Naomi Hazlett and Rosie Arcuri

Do you want to learn how to find online recipes and meal ideas? Do you want to learn how to save money on your grocery bill? Do you want to share strategies about preparing food in a simple way?  Than this workshop is for you!

Park Pleasures:
Ice cream and mini workshops in High Park:
Thursday July 12th, 2018 from 1:30-3:30.
Rain Date: Thursday July 19, 2018.
Facilitated by Rosie Arcuri, Naomi Hazlett and Anita Laurnitus

Whether you just want to enjoy some ice cream and mindfulness in the park or you want to learn how to feel comfortable going to High Park on your own this is the workshop for you! We will meet at the Grenadier Restaurant. Come join us in High Park!  The purpose of the gathering is to discuss and experience how you can take advantage of one of Toronto’s great parks.  The session will include: mini consultations with one of our O&M instructors to talk about being an independent traveler in the park, join a discussion of how you can use technology outside by using a device to meditate or read a book while sitting in the park, and take part in a mini mindfulness workshop.  Please note that clients are responsible for the cost of their own ice cream. NOTE: In case of rain all registered participants will be contacted the day before and we will postpone the event to Thursday July 19th.

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 June 13, 20 and 27 on Wednesdays from 3:00-4:30p.m.  The workshops will take place at the BALANCE office on 2340 Dundas St. W. Please note places are limited! First come first served.

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

Are you interested in these workshops but unable to attend during the day?  Contact Rosie and enquire about the possibility of evening workshops. If we have enough participants we will consider offering this trio in the evening in the future.

Sharing Space Support Group

BALANCE will be offering our Sharing Space Support Group, with Lisa Derencinovic, on Wednesday afternoons from 1:30-3:30 p.m. from May 2 to July 18, 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 “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 was 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 1:30 to 3:30 pm., please plan to arrive on time
  • First meeting: Wednesday May 2
  • Last meeting: Wednesday  July 18

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.

Stress Reduction Through Mindfulness Training

BALANCE is pleased to again offer our course in Stress Reduction through mindfulness and breathing practice, led by Fazia Ackbarali*, our Yoga Instructor.

Visually impaired adults live with daily stresses related to getting around, getting things done, accessing information, as well as the attitudes of others in society. Becoming more mindful can help with concentration and focus, and assist in the prevention of accidents and injuries. The objective of this program is to teach adults with vision loss how to manage stress using mindfulness practices, which are relaxation techniques done with breath awareness.

The course, made up of 8 sessions of 2 hours each, will cover topics such as:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Seated/standing yoga
  • Seated meditation
  • Mindfulness in everyday activities
  • Body Scan

Detailed information:

Timing: Tuesday afternoons, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Start date: May 8

End date: July 3, (one week off during the 8 weeks of sessions)

*Fazia has 30 years of experience in Yoga, 16 of them as an instructor. She specializes in teaching people who require adaptations to typical yoga practice.

Location:

West Toronto Support Services, 1709 Bloor St. West, at Keele Subway Station (south side of Bloor) (please go to the side entrance on Indian Grove, and PLEASE tell WheelTrans to drop you at the side entrance on Indian Grove!

Please register by April 26: Call Laura Monday through Thursday at 416-236-1796, extension 0

Welcome to Naomi Hazlett, Occupational Therapist

Naomi is smiling and is outside under the trees.
Naomi Hazlett

We are pleased to welcome the newest addition to our staff team, Naomi Hazlett, MSc.OT. Naomi brings a wealth of relevant experience and creative energy to the position.  She is a recent graduate of the occupational therapy program at the University of Toronto, and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and cognitive science, also from U. of T. She has a wide variety of interests and passions including health & wellness, accessibility, education, research, writing, and promoting mental health in all areas of life. Naomi’s strong recreation/leisure background and her deep knowledge of Toronto community and neighbourhoods, will provide BALANCE with added expertise to support, encourage and teach our clients.

Balancing the Power

A Vibrant Discussion Group for Women who are Blind and Partially Sighted!

Are you interested in connecting with other urban women living with vision loss?  Are you interested in learning about and sharing your experiences with issues facing women with vision loss?

BALANCE is pleased to offer a discussion group for women, with the theme of empowerment. Facilitated by Chelsea Mohler*, with a number of excellent guest speakers, the group will start on Tuesday, January 10, 2018 and will run for 7 weeks, ending February 20. Sessions will be held from 2 until 4 PM at the Four Villages Community Health Centre, located at 1700 Bloor St. W., in the Multi-purpose room.

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; online safety when dating or using social media; mental wellness, self-esteem and body image; developing your personal image and style (even on a tight budget); violence prevention and self-defence specifically for women with vision loss; and relationships, dating, and the intersection of disability.  Come on out and check out the group!

If interested, please contact Chelsea at c.mohler@balancefba.org or 416.236.1796 X. 225 for more information or to sign up. We are happy to provide orientation in advance of the series to anyone requiring assistance to locate the Four Villages Health Centre.  A commitment to all 7 sessions is expected in order to preserve the “safe setting” philosophy. (Exceptions to be discussed with the facilitator.) Please respond if interested no later than January 5, 2017.

*Chelsea Mohler, M.A., is an Assistive Technology Instructor at BALANCE, lives with vision loss herself, and was co-facilitator of BALANCE’s pre-employment program for young adults in 2017. Chelsea holds a Master’s degree in Occupational Science from Western University, and has been instructing adults in 1:1 lessons, leading workshops and teaching groups for 5 years.