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Deborah Gold, Executive Director
(416) 236-1796, ext. 222
With a Ph.D. in special education from Syracuse University, Dr. Gold has spent her career advocating for the social inclusion of people with disabilities. She is a skilled and experienced leader with extensive leadership training, most recently in LeaderShift (LEADS Canada); she is a member of the Canadian College of Health Leaders. Dr. Gold 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 Canadian National Institute for the Blind in progressively advanced roles, most recently as their National Director of Research and Program Development. Dr. Gold has spear-headed multiple knowledge development and generation projects (such as books and manuals for clients, parents and caregivers) funded through government and foundation grants that she wrote. She sustained her department for many years on the success of her grant-writing. She has worked in this field for over 20 years and is an inclusion specialist and educator by training. Prior to her work in vision loss, Dr. Gold used her leadership positions in post-secondary education to expose health care students to practice opportunities with persons with disabilities. Her early career and first post-graduate degree were in inclusive recreation and leisure for children and youth.
Priyanka Bakhshi Ph.D., Development Officer
(416) 236-1796 ext. 230
Being an empath with a commitment to support in improving lives of people, led me into the direction of joining the non-profit sector. I completed my MBA with dual specialization in Marketing and Human Resource Management, while also volunteering with an organization for developing their work plans and managing partnerships. Post which I worked in the area of public health research and completed my Doctorate in understanding the motivation of human resources in the Public Health sector. During the time frame, I was supportive in writing multiple research projects and papers, while also being responsible for managing donor relations with the Indian institute of Health Management Research.
After completing my doctorate I started working with Evidence Action, India Program, where I worked in the areas of advocacy, partnership management, program development, management, and implementation. I spent the past 7 years building and managing stakeholder partnerships (government, partner organizations, donors) budget forecasting and monitoring, and ensuring program institutionalization and sustainability, while supervising a team of over 20 full time and part time staff members. I was also responsible for preparing donor reports, and deliverables to government counterparts.
I am considered by others to be adept at skillfully navigating multi-stakeholder environments, having a drive for meaningful results, and a recognized track record of success in engaging, managing and sustaining deep relationships with individuals and organizations. I am looking forward to delivering on the opportunity provided to me at BALANCE.
Chloe Thibault, Reception/Intake/Groups Coordinator
416-236-1796, ext. 0
I received my Social Service Worker diploma from Centennial College in 2019 and got my first job coordinating seniors programs at the Canadian Red Cross. This is where I was first introduced to the challenges and changes that can come with vision loss/blindness. I was attracted to BALANCE because of their holistic approach to client care and their dedication to the blind community. Being able to connect 1-1 with clients, and bring to life the many groups/events that bring us all together has been amazing. Feels great to be part of such a small but mighty team!
Anita Laurnitus, Volunteer Coordinator
(416) 236-1796, ext. 228
Bill Phung, Data Quality Specialist
(416) 236-1796 ext. 226
Direct Service Staff
Anita Laurnitus, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
(416) 236-1796, ext. 228
“Eleven years ago I joined the BALANCE team because I was attracted to the small, dedicated force that was doing incredible things for the blind community. We are grassroots which gives us an advantage because we are nimble and less bureaucratic. There are no long wait lists, clients can call me directly, and we are always accommodating with our scheduling. The autonomy we have over our work and the overall flexibility of the organization allows us to provide individualized supports to the diverse population that we serve.
Some of my instruction includes helping clients create and plan travel routes, analyze and identify intersections to understand traffic patterns, and use public transportation. One of the most challenging, but at the same time rewarding, aspects of my job is teaching clients personal safety on the streets.
Sometimes a client and I will spend months practicing a travel route and when it finally clicks and they learn the traffic patterns, you can see them flush with confidence when they can independently cross the street. Recently one of my clients learned how to travel independently within his condo using the elevator. Something as simple as navigating the elevator panel can be extremely challenging for a blind or visually impaired individual who has never been taught how to do so. For months, with over 30 floors on the panel, this individual was reliant on the help of others in his building. After spending an afternoon together, he’s able to locate and push the buttons he needs to travel freely in his building. He was so pleased.
Knowing that I’m teaching clients lifelong skills that enable them to cross busy streets, get to their destinations safely, or navigate their own home or condo building with confidence, is a privilege.”
Monika Mistry, Occupational Therapist/Assistive Technology Instructor–On Temporary Leave
(416) 236-1796, ext. 230
Bill Phung, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
(416) 236-1796 ext. 226
“When I was a student at Mohawk College at the orientation mobility instructor program, I was first introduced to BALANCE for Blind Adults when specialists came in to present to the class. After graduating from my program, I applied and BALANCE was my first job out of college. The rest is history. Seven years have flown by, I’m still on the BALANCE team and loving every second of it, so much so that I didn’t even realize this much time had passed. Every day is different and each client has their own unique challenges and goals. I’m passionate about helping others achieve their goals regardless of what they may be.
Something that really validates the work I do is connecting individuals who have been isolated for the majority of their lives. Whether they are newly visually impaired or have been for many years, providing them with the knowledge and resources to be able to decrease their isolation and be more independent in the community is why I do what I do. Regardless of the client’s needs, learning a new skill offers a sense of independence that they didn’t have before.”
Doug Poirier, Assistive Technology Instructor and Information Technology Coordinator
(416) 236-1796 ext. 224
“I’ve been working for BALANCE since 2001 and at the time I was hired as a contract worker to run a 6 week program to help their clients learn a new, state-of-the-art technology. This was the beginning of the adaptive technology program and 17 years later it’s still going strong. I like to think that BALANCE is a leader in assistive technology training/instruction. BALANCE gives blind and visually impaired individuals a choice. We are equipped to meet the needs of a more diverse population and we always do our best to help everyone who comes our way.
One of the challenges that I enjoy while teaching is creating the course material and having the know-how to adapt it to student needs. I also enjoy teaching office skills. It’s not only about dealing with inaccessibility in the workplace, being work ready with the proper social skills, right attitude and confidence is just as important.
Around 10 to 20 years ago, technology was reserved for a small group of individuals who could afford the adaptive technology and had the skill to use it properly. Often times you had to spend an extra $400 worth of adaptive technology just to make the device accessible. Times have changed and companies, like Apple, have focused on making out of the box technology completely accessible with built in tools for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. This makes technology much more affordable and people are more willing to try. Its rewarding when you can teach some who has the technological knowledge and skills but doesn’t know how to integrate this knowledge into their own life as an independent person. There will always be challenges and I’m here to fill in the gaps where I can, or at least provide people with the lasting tools to do so themselves.”