COVID-19 Alert: Provider office phone extensions are forwarded to staff mobile phones until further notice. Messages left on the main line are checked daily.
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.
Ronashelle Coro, Reception and Communications Coordinator
(416) 236-1796, ext. 0
“I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from York University. I have a strong customer service background, knowledge of administrative and communications procedure, and community-based health care delivery during COVID-19. Working in healthcare field has allowed me to nurture my desire to help others.
One thing I love about BALANCE is how such a small team can make a huge impact to the community. Also, the organization pushes me to take on new and challenging opportunities.”
Anita Laurnitus, Volunteer Coordinator
(416) 236-1796, ext. 228
Cristina Lopes, Program Coordinator
(416) 236-1796, ext. 225
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.”
Cristina Lopes, Community Engagement Specialist
(416) 236-1796, ext. 225
“I was first introduced to BALANCE for Blind Adults in 2017 while working with Mood Disorders Society of Canada as a facilitator and program coordinator of a personal and professional skills development program for Veterans and former RCMP members. As we opened the program up to all persons with disabilities, we knew we wanted to provide inclusive and accessible programming to all who participated. That’s where BALANCE came in. As a Registered Social Service Worker, I was immediately drawn to the values and mission of BALANCE for Blind Adults.
Since joining the BALANCE team in the summer of 2019, I have worked with pre-existing employment support programs to provide inclusive programming to persons who are blind or living with sight loss. Since the completion of the project I have stayed on as staff with BALANCE and have witnessed this small organization take huge strides in providing access to adults living with sight loss.”
Eve Pervin, Occupational Therapist
“I am a registered Occupational therapist with the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario. I love working with people and am passionate about maintaining a strengths-based approach to help clients achieve their goals. I completed my Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto in 2021. I additionally hold a Bachelor of Health Sciences from Western University and a Master’s of Arts in Critical Disability Studies from York University. I have worked with individuals of all ages with different disabilities. I also have lived-experience as the sibling of an individual with autism, and care deeply about honouring lived experience and connecting with clients.”
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.”