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

Trio of Wheel-Trans Teleconferences

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 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 January 23 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.

Tuesday, January 23rd: The Wheel-Trans Application

Tuesday, January 30th: Booking Wheel-Trans trips online

Tuesday, February 6th: Wheel-Trans 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.

If you have any questions or to register please contact Rosie Arcuri at r.arcuri@balancefba.org or 416.236.1796 X. 230. Upon registration, you will be provided with the numbers needed to join the teleconference.

Please sign up no later than January 17 so you don’t miss this educational series!

Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

An 8 part class series specifically designed for adults who are blind or partially sighted, this group will run from January 16 to March 6, at West Toronto Support Services, on Tuesday afternoons from 2-3:30 p.m. (shortly after yoga class completes each Tuesday). The instructors will be Anita Laurnitus, Orientation and Mobility Instructor, and Fazia Ackbarali, Yoga Instructor.

Topics will include the many tips and strategies for creating a safe environment, and for navigating safely as a blind person, as well as:
foot care, proper footwear, coordination, balance/stability, environmental awareness strategies, strengthening core and leg muscles, and what to do if there is a fall, and if there is an injury also. If you have tripped, slipped or fallen in the past year, are not going out now because you are afraid of falling, or have attended a falls prevention course that did not address your needs as a blind person, then this program is for you!

You will be our first participants, and thus will help us shape this new group program! There is a maximum of 10 places for this, so we require a commitment to attend at least 6 of the 8 sessions, and we will require a minimum of 4 participants to run the program, due to the amount of preparation work to make it a success. To register and complete the telephone based questionnaire, contact Anita at (416) 236-1796 extension 228 by Friday January 4 at the latest, leave a message and she will call you back.

We are so pleased to be able to offer you new programs related to wellness. Always check our website under “Courses and Workshops” or look out for our emails promoting all our new groups, workshops, and class series.

Self-Care for Carers

Taking good care of yourself while supporting or caring for a family member or friend who is experiencing vision loss

Are you a sighted spouse, partner, parent, adult child, sibling, or friend of someone who is living with vision loss, blindness or partial sight? Would you like to share your experiences and learn from others? Because helpers often need help too, and sometimes find they have become unable to take care of themselves, this group will help you start to focus on YOU so that you can meet your own needs while also facing the challenges of living with someone who is experiencing vision loss.

We will cover topics such as: the stages of adjustment, how your own feelings can echo the feelings of the person with vision loss, the grieving process for both of you, changing expectations and roles, communication strategies, conflict resolution,  the care giver relationship, knowing when to help and when to step back,  and personal self-care for the caregiver.

The group will be facilitated by Lisa Derencinovic, a registered social worker and counsellor. Lisa runs her own counselling practise specializing in people with disabilities. She has also facilitated many groups throughout her career. Lisa knows first-hand the experience of living with sight loss, having been diagnosed at age 4 with a genetic eye disease.

The group will meet Wednesdays, February 7-March 28, 2018, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at BALANCE for Blind Adults, 2340 Dundas St. West, Toronto. We will spend 8 weeks supporting each other, sharing our experiences and learning from each other. Please register by calling the BALANCE office at 416-236-1796, ext. 0 and leaving a message with your name and a number where you can be reached in order to confirm. Registration deadline: January 26, 2018. Note: this group will run with a minimum of 4 participants and a maximum of 10.

Yoga for People with Vision Loss

Space is currently available in our yoga program, which is carefully adapted for participation by people with vision loss. Offered year-round, and taught by yoga therapy expert Fazia Ackbarali, our program has helped a number of participants to gain strength, stability and a sense of calm in their everyday lives, as well as to recover from injury and chronic pain.

Currently offered once/week on Tuesdays from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at West Toronto Support Services (Keele and Bloor), you may register by calling the BALANCE office at 416-236-1796, ext. 0 and leaving a message for Laura. Cost: $20 for 4 classes, payable to the instructor.

Unlocking the power of BlindSquare along with Google Maps

Workshop full!

  • 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.

On Friday February 26, at the BALANCE offices located at 2340 Dundas St. West, Suite G-06, we are presenting a 3 hour workshop from 1:00 – 4:00 pm, focusing on how to get the most from BlindSquare together with Google Maps navigation.

The instructors leading the presentation are Doug Poirier Assistive Technology Instructor, Anita Laurnitus and Bill Phung both Orientation and Mobility Instructors.

As a follow-up to the workshop, there is a practical component to be held at the CNIB Hub located at 1525 Yonge St. In these sessions, you will put into practice what was discussed at the workshop.

The dates for these practical sessions are Friday, March 2nd 1:00 – 4:00 pm and Friday March 9th, 1:00 – 4:00 pm.

You are expected to attend only one of the practical sessions which includes a one-on-one orientation tour of one of  the most inclusive and accessible neighbourhoods in Canada. In addition, Shane Laurnitus of the CNIB Hub will be discussing the CNIB ShopTalk initiative.

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

This workshop is now full, however please contact Anita Laurnitus a.laurnitus@balancefba.org X228, or Doug Poirier d.poirier@balancefba.org X224 if you are interested in participating in a future similar workshop.

Hey! What is the “PEP”?

The First-Ever BALANCE Summer Pre-Employment Program

Only a few spots left!

You might be curious about this newly designed and innovative program offering from BALANCE. A blog post is a perfect opportunity to describe it.

The Pre-Employment Program is intended to provide young adults who are blind or partially sighted with the tools, resources, and insights necessary to help them to be their own job coaches and developers. As such, this program will be a mix of workshops, one to one assessments, and links to existing resources post program.

Our program participants need to be committed to finding a job, open to feedback, have basic orientation and mobility skills, have basic technology skills and a have attained a basic level of education, such as high school, trade school, or post-secondary education. Space permitting, we will accept those who are currently in school but who are seeking to gain part time or summer employment.

The program is divided into 2 weeks, with week 1 focused on improving orientation and mobility, independent living and assistive technology skills; and week 2 directed towards advanced assistive technology skills, including common software programs for job search, social media uses for workers, and adaptive technology for working as an effective team member.

Program 1:

The objectives of this program are:

  • Gain new or improve upon five employment related skills
  • Learn about five new websites
  • Be connected with at least 5 new community resources (including two local)
  • Be provided with 35 hours of instruction in a small group setting which will allow participants to learn from each other as well as the instructor
  • Be provided with a minimum of 2 hours of individual assessment, feedback and instruction

Content themes:

  • Understanding the job market, how to disclose, networking and more
  • Independent Living skills related to employment such as self-care (dressing professionally), staying organized (time management, virtual calendars and agendas)
  • Personalized assessments in orientation and mobility, independent living, technology and important skills linked to transitioning into work.

 

Program 2:

The objectives of this program are:

  • Learn approximately 10 apps
  • Discover 10 websites
  • Deepen your knowledge of 5 programs
  • Learn about 5 resources
  • Be provided with 35 hours of instruction in a small group setting which will allow participants to learn from each other as well as the instructor
  • Be provided with a minimum of 2 hours of individual assessment, feedback and instruction

Content themes:

  • Useful free resources specifically for the blind and visually impaired; mainstream job search sites and more
  • Social media (creating a social brand, using social media with adaptive tech, using social media)
  • Adaptive technology
  • Time management and organization
  • Microsoft office refresher
  • Problem solving and community access

Our skillful and experienced staff will provide the leadership for this exciting new opportunity, and our expert pre-employment team will also include skilled and bright guest speakers who will provide us with interesting sessions dealing with: everyday coping with challenges, mindfulness training for stress reduction, how to network, and reproducing workplace requirements in order to best prepare for the demands.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in participating in this program, please call Chelsea Mohler at 416-236-1796, ext. 225, or email her at c.mohler@balancefba.org

Wonders of the Apple Watch: Part 2

by Chelsea Mohler, AT Instructor, BALANCE

Who is Siri anyway?

OK, now, I confess, onto my favourite topic—Siri!  Who doesn’t love that personal assistant in your ear giving you reminders, directions, or life advice, ok, maybe not the advice.  I know for me, Siri was one of the major reasons I bothered to purchase any Apple product. Although sometimes Siri can frustrate us to no end, it also comes in really handy—especially when trying to send lengthy texts or call someone from our contacts.  Let’s face it, Siri makes our lives a lot easier!

So, why all this talk about Siri? Well, the Apple Watch incorporates the Siri feature, and as a result, many of the things we are familiar with on our other devices. There are some differences to be aware of, though, so let’s take a look at those.

Siri on the Apple Watch

The most noticeable difference is that Siri doesn’t speak as he/she does on iOS devices. Instead the response appears on the screen of the watch and the wearer either drags their finger around to have the VoiceOver voice read the content or uses Digital Crown Navigation to do so. This may at first seem a bit odd, but in actual fact you don’t even notice once you’ve got used to it. As the wearer is going to have raised their wrist to use Siri in the first place it’s not a great stretch to using your finger or the Digital Crown to read the screen once Siri responds. As with most new things it’s worth spending some time getting used to the slightly different functionality of the Apple Watch, you will certainly find that it is well worth it.

How to use Siri on the Apple Watch

Now, you might be wondering how to use Siri on the Apple watch.  Well, there are a couple of ways to use Siri on the Apple Watch. The first is to tap the screen once to wake the watch up, raise your wrist and say “Hey Siri.” Time for another confession—that’s my all time favourite approach, unless, of course, you are in a loud space where the watch may not pick up your voice. The second way to activate Siri is to press and hold the Digital Crown before giving Siri an instruction or asking it a question. In both cases and assuming that you have haptic feedback enabled on your Apple Watch, you will feel two taps in quick succession on your wrist when Siri is awake and ready to receive instructions/questions. Then, go on ahead and speak your command to Siri!

Wonders of the Apple Watch, Part 1

by Chelsea Mohler, AT Instructor, BALANCE

Apple Watch-What’s not to love?

In addition to the iPhone, iPad, and Macbook, Apple has an Apple watch, and I have just recently purchased one because I was curious what all the fuss was about!  So, I should start by saying I have the Apple Watch Gen one, which is most certainly  not water-proof, but if I like it, I’ll upgrade to the Gen two.  There are way too many cool features to discuss in one blog, so I’ll start by covering the basics and leave the rest for another entry!

I love tools and gadgets, and I love accessible gadgets the most. Since I have a visual impairment, I’m used to having to wait around for the “special” stuff. So, the things I love the most are mainstream gadgets that come out of the box being accessible.

Now that I’ve had my Apple Watch, the Gen One, for a couple of days, I hope I can clear up some of your first-day questions.  First thing’s first, if you have just purchased the watch, you will need to pair it with your iPhone.  This means getting the phone and the watch to talk to one another and play nicey!  It seems difficult, yes, but this process actually can be done completely without vision.  I won’t rewrite how to pair the watch because the

How to Set up Your New Apple Watch – A Comprehensive Guide

is first rate and does a very thorough job.

before we can go too much further, we need to ensure VoiceOver is turned on on the watch.  If it is already on from when you paired the watch, this is still a good review for future.  Turn on Voiceover.  On Apple Watch, open the Settings app , then turn on General > Accessibility > VoiceOver. You can also use iPhone to turn on VoiceOver for Apple Watch—open the Apple Watch app on iPhone, tap My Watch, then tap the VoiceOver option in General > Accessibility. Or, use the Accessibility Shortcut. See The Accessibility Shortcut. And there’s always Siri:

Ask Siri. “Turn VoiceOver on.”

OK, once the watch is paired and Voiceovr is set up, it is time to explore the screen. Move your finger around on the display and listen as the name of each item you touch is spoken. You can also tap with one finger to select an item, or swipe left or right with one finger to select an adjacent item.

Gone down a path you didn’t expect? Do a two-finger scrub: use two fingers to trace a “z” shape on the display.

Act on an item. With VoiceOver on, use a double tap instead of a single tap to open an app, switch an option, or perform any action that would normally be done with a tap. Select an app icon or option switch by tapping it or swiping to it, then double-tap to perform its action. For example, to turn VoiceOver off, select the VoiceOver button, then double-tap anywhere on the display.

Pausing Voiceover

Let’s say you are in the middle of a e-mail or text and you want to pause Voiceover from reading. To have VoiceOver stop reading, tap the display with two fingers. Tap again with two fingers to resume.

Adjust VoiceOver volume. Double-tap and hold with two fingers, then slide up or down. Or, open the Apple Watch app on iPhone, tap My Watch, then go to General > Accessibility > VoiceOver and drag the slider.

Adjust reading rate. Open the Apple Watch app on iPhone, tap My Watch, then go to General > Accessibility > VoiceOver and drag the slider.

Want to save battery and have the information on your watch kept private?  Well, you can turn on the screen curtain by opening the Settings app on Apple Watch, then turn on General > Accessibility > VoiceOver and turn on Screen Curtain.

Want your watch to be able to be used by a sighted peer?  Simply turn off Voiceover by opening the settings Settings app , go to General > Accessibility > VoiceOver, then tap the VoiceOver button.

Ask Siri. “Turn VoiceOver off.”