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, (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!

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

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.

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.

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.

A Year in Review

Our Executive Director Writes About her First  Year on the Job

While I am a bit delayed in posting this, I did indeed write it in April, one year after starting my new adventure in this excellent work place and learning space. Thanks for reading!

One year review:

When I started at BALANCE on April 13, 2016, it was a small organization with a strong commitment to clients, and quite frankly, my initial impression was that BALANCE was an organization that placed clients first, and the staff gave me strong messages that they were looking forward to having my leadership, and hopeful for a great deal of positive growth. I had a lot to work with: the offices had just moved to a new location right across from a subway station; the funding oversight had shifted from the Mississauga-Halton LHIN to the Toronto Central; and we had a shiny new strategic plan (finalized in May/June 2016) from which to develop our plans moving forward.

To say the least, it has been a year of growth and learning, both for the organization and for me. We have generated a positive relationship with our new LHIN, a new source of revenue through a first partnership agreement with Accessible Media Inc., and strong relationships with Reconnect Mental Health/Reconnect Shared Services, LAMP IT services, the Toronto Reference Library and the University of Toronto Occupational Therapy Department, as well as St. Joseph’s Hospital departments, OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre, and others. We have also received two federal grants, one to install automatic door openers on our front doors, and one to hire our summer student through Canada Summer Jobs. In addition, we have developed the strength of the staff as a team, adding three creative new staff members to our small but mighty group. Finally, our client numbers have grown by 50%, with a total number seen in 2016-17 of 151 (we had 101 clients in 2015-16). Our group participation also has increased, and BALANCE is now a going concern, with clients coming and going 5-6 days and evenings most weeks, for a variety of group opportunities.  To illustrate, in the spring of 2016 we had 21 group sessions and 11 individual participations and in the winter of 2017 we had 61 group sessions and 235 individual participations in groups!

I remain grateful for the opportunity to lead in such a warm, welcoming and exciting organization. We continue to serve our clients, and I believe our efforts play out in the number of new and returning clients we have seen this year. Each month, the number of clients returning for service after some years away, has remained high, averaging around 7 per month. One cannot ask for more than an enthusiastic participant who has heard about our new programming or our new instructors, and wants to return. We have certainly been busy and we have been able to provide some unique new programming. The challenge for year 2 of the Strategic Plan is to sustain and grow this activity while achieving a great deal more towards the strengthening of our infrastructure, the realizing of efficiencies and the generation of new revenue streams for BALANCE.

I look forward to the challenge!

 

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