Deborah Gold, Executive Director
(416) 236-1796 extension 222
Laura Antal, Office Coordinator (On Leave)
(416) 236-1796, ext. 0
Eleanor Lobo-Lee, Volunteer Coordinator
(and Interim Office/Intake Coordinator)
416 236-1796, ext. 0
Direct Service Staff
Rosie Arcuri, Assistive Technology Instructor
(416) 236-1796, ext. 230
“As someone who is partially sighted, I was attracted to BALANCE because there was an opportunity for me to help and work closely with individuals with a lot of potential. I noticed that there are many factors which can limit someone’s ability to become more independent or skilled. It’s more complex than their vision impairment. Often times barriers can be related to an individual’s attitude, their financial resources, and their parents’ parenting style. If you give someone the time, attention, and resources to succeed, most likely they will make a positive change.
I believe that BALANCE exists in the community to make the cracks smaller. What does that mean? Many BALANCE clients are on a fixed income, have specialized needs, and are isolated. Other agencies aren’t equipped to meet the needs of these clients and more specifically, provide the time and attention that BALANCE and their small team can. I’m grateful for working in an organization that is client focused.
I work specifically with individuals who could once see, but their eyesight is slowly deteriorating. I help them deal with the process of trying to accept their vision loss. I’m proud of the little steps and changes clients make along the way. Collectively these small changes add up to a big change in an client’s overall attitude and confidence. If I can make their day to day life a little easier, they are able to adapt to and handle other changes in their lives with more thought. It’s all about shifting the attitude from “I can’t do this, to I can do this”.”
Naomi Hazlett, Occupational Therapist
(416) 236-1796, ext. 229
“I recently joined the BALANCE team and was immediately impressed by the workplace culture. As a new OT, I found that my expertise and opinions were respected. I was the first Occupational Therapist that BALANCE has ever hired and I was given the autonomy to build the role from the ground up. So far, one of biggest barriers to access that my clients have been facing is finding safe and affordable housing. I work with them to navigate this issue, and together we learn how to apply for subsidized housing.
What brings me joy in this role is when I can help a client overcome something that might seem trivial or mundane to others but makes a world of difference to the everyday life of that client. For example, I have a client who has complex needs. She felt like she’d reached a point of no return with the amount of clutter in her home. Something as simple as taking her to the dollar store to buy bins and then organizing them made a huge difference to the functionality of her home as well as eliminating a lot of the anxieties she had about the clutter.”
Anita Laurnitus, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
(416) 236-1796 extension 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.”
Chelsea Mohler, Assistive/Adaptive Technology Instructor
(416) 236-1796 ext. 225
“As a staff member with lived experience, I have first-hand knowledge of other agencies in Toronto and what I feel truly makes BALANCE different is that as soon as you walk through our doors you feel welcomed. We’re small, intimate, and friendly. All of us are willing to go the extra mile to support you. Sometimes we have sleepless nights but I think that speaks to our dedication and commitment to what we do. As an instructor, I feel the proudest when my students are able to take what they’ve learned and teach and empower each other to improve their technical skills.
As a young woman, something that I value in this workplace is that BALANCE provides leadership opportunities for women with disabilities. The BALANCE senior management has created a workplace culture that provides staff with what we need to succeed not only at BALANCE but outside of the workplace as well, and I really appreciate this support of my career.”
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. Five 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
(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.”