Hello from our homes (and office) to yours!– Updated October 30, 2020
BALANCE has moved to a blended model of service delivery since July. Since the City of Toronto moved into a modified Stage 2 response to COVID-19 in early October, we have also modified our services in order to continue to keep staff and clients safe while delivering our essential services. Our Orientation and Mobility instructors, Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology instructors continue to see some clients in person for lessons, as necessary and if clients are eligible. In cases where clients or staff may be vulnerable, we are determining the level of need on a case-by-case basis, and in some cases, these clients will be seen in person, while in others their service may be provided remotely or put on hold for the time being.
BALANCE continues to add a number of groups, activities and events to our roster of virtual offerings, and we hope you will be able to take advantage of these unique opportunities in the days and weeks ahead.
These are indeed unprecedented times, and we want to assure you that we are always working according to our Board-approved Pandemic Safety Plan and our research into best practices. We also believe that COVID-19 has revealed a great deal that is wrong with our system, and in addition, has provided us with a window into the virtual world, and the ways in which we can help more people more of the time. Once again, your feedback is always welcome. Just call us or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello from our homes to yours!–Updated July 20, 2020
BALANCE is now scheduling in-person lessons as needed. This includes: Assistive Technology Training, Orientation and Mobility Training, Community Engagement and Occupational Therapy. Remote lessons will continue as possible and necessary. The choice is yours. Phone 416-236-1796, ext. 0 to leave a message and Cristina will call you back to update your intake and arrange for your service agreement. If you are new for our services, she will interview you to see what you may need or want at this time. We look forward to seeing you in person or remotely, whichever makes the most sense for YOU!
Hello from our homes to yours!–Updated June 18, 2020
BALANCE wants you to know we are here for you. We are still providing many of our original services and programs, and we have added new ones, virtually. It is June 18, and we now have a safety plan and PPE in place so we can re-open for in-office, in-home and in-community teaching sessions that cannot be done remotely by phone or online. We are setting up our sanitizing and disinfecting protocols for the office, our pre-screening questionnaires for clients seeking in-person service in their homes or our office, and our personal protective equipment policy and protocols. In addition, we are creating specific guidance documents for in-person service such as in-home occupational therapy services (such as cleaning and cooking lessons, organizing for safety, and home safety assessments), and orientation and mobility services. We will create a gradual phased in approach to these services, seeing those in most urgent need first. We have scheduled to start seeing these folks as of June 23rd, on a pre-arranged and as assessed basis.
For now, stay safe, stay home, and stay tuned on the latest developments in new programs, groups or 1:1 training opportunities, through our website under the “What’s New” tab, “programs”
Where to get the right information about COVID-19-updated May 26, 2020
There is a great deal of misinformation floating about. Please go only to Toronto.ca/covid19 for your reliable source of information about this situation. We still have the opportunity to slow the virus spread, but we need to work together. Our Chief Medical Officer of Health has strongly supported the province’s closing of non-essential businesses. She is also strongly urging us to keep at least 6 feet from others.
We at BALANCE realize this means that as a blind person, it will now be even more difficult for you to go out, and to get the things you need, essentials like food and medicine. We want to help. Please let us know if there is any service you require, that you are worried about, like your groceries or medicine. We are well connected with people who can help, and we have lined up a lot of information about what is available in the city. Call our main number 416-236-1796 and leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can; or email us at email@example.com and we will respond.
BALANCE is supporting the call to stay home, in the following ways:
- Using teleconference and Zoom to provide Sharing Space Support Group and Anxiety and Stress Management programs, as well as other courses and workshops as they are designed and produced
- Providing, as much as possible, remote assistive technology lessons. If you have scheduled lessons, Doug and George will be in touch about providing these remotely. If this is not possible due to the nature of the lessons, your lessons will be suspended until further notice, at which time we will reassess the situation
- Cancelling all Orientation and Mobility lessons until further notice; as we plan to re-assess and re-open face-to-face lessons, we will keep you informed
- Providing wellness support, which will involve telephone outreach to our clients by Cristina Lopes, Community Outreach Specialist, and our two O/M instructors, who are redeployed to this service
- Adding a virtual “Coffee Connection” opportunity for our clients, by zoom or telephone, with Elizabeth Mohler, 2x weekly (see “programs” section for more information, or watch for info in our weekly newsletter or on our Facebook page)
- Updating our Facebook page and Twitter feed regularly with new information about programs and services, and COVID-19 updates of relevance to our community
The physical BALANCE office at 2340 Dundas St. West is closed until further notice. Please do not come to the office.
We urge our clients to follow the strong recommendations of public health officials, and stay home unless it is necessary to obtain essentials. We understand that this can be extremely challenging for people who are blind. We are here to help as we can, please do not hesitate to reach out.
BALANCE is doing everything we can to help prevent the spread of this virus, and to take the best care possible of our clients through a shift in the way we provide our services and supports. Please help us to help you by reducing your telephone contact with the office unless your call is urgent, or you are requesting service. We will be reaching out to as many clients as possible over the coming days and weeks.
Yours in good health,
Where to get reliable information:
In times like these, a great deal of misinformation is often distributed. You should go to the following sources for reliable information about COVID-19:
Please do NOT call 911 unless it is an emergency
Instead, take the following self-assessment:
The following is taken directly from the Ontario Health website, coronavirus self-assessment page:
If you are feeling unwell with any of the following symptoms:
- Fever, new cough or difficulty breathing (or a combination of these symptoms)
- Muscle aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat, runny nose or diarrhea
OR have experienced any of the following:
- Have you travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days?
- Does someone you are in close contact with have COVID-19 (for example, someone in your household or workplace)?
- Are you in close contact with a person who is sick with respiratory symptoms (for example, fever, cough or difficulty breathing) who recently travelled outside of Canada?
If you answered yes to these questions, you should seek clinical assessment for COVID-19 over the phone.
The majority of COVID-19 illnesses are mild. A clinician can help guide whether you will require further care or potential testing in person. Please use one of the following options:
- Contact your primary care provider (for example, family doctor). Let them know that you have used this self-assessment tool.
- Contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 and speak with a registered nurse. Let them know that you have used this self-assessment tool.
If you start to experience worsening symptoms, please visit your local emergency department. Call before you go and let them know you have used this self-assessment tool.
If you answered no to these questions, it is unlikely that you have COVID-19.
- Continue to monitor your health for a full 14 days after your return to Ontario or have contact with someone who is ill. If you develop any new symptoms, please seek clinical assessment and testing for COVID-19.
- Learn more about self-monitoring.
- If you start to feel worse or have questions or concerns about your health, call your local public health unit, primary care provider (for example, family doctor) or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
Again, the number to call if you think you have symptoms/want to be screened:
If you have any underlying condition, such as a depressed immune system due to certain medications, you must isolate yourself immediately and take extra cautionary measures if you must go out. If you do not believe you have enough food in the house to get you through the next two weeks, or you are in need of medications, please call Home and Community Care: 416-506-9888.
Staying Resilient in Trying Times, Adapted by Cristina Lopes, RSW, Community Engagement Specialist
As the news about the coronavirus pandemic hits home, and governments and businesses issue closing or work-from-home directives, many of us are experiencing a variety of negative emotions. We feel anxiety in response to the uncertainty of the situation; sadness related to losing our daily sources of meaning and joy; and anger at whatever forces are to blame for bringing this upon us. Here are some recommendations to help maintain mental resilience as we navigate our way through this crisis.
Accept negative emotions
It is important to acknowledge that a lot of anxious thoughts and emotions will show up during this time, and to accept them rather than trying to push them away or escape them. The same goes for sadness stemming from the loss of our regular ways of living, worry about lack of supplies or financial supports.
Allow negative emotions to come and go, and focusing on how to spend this time to still include engaging in meaningful and joyful activities.
Instead of fighting with our emotions it is imperative to invest our energy in creating the best possible life, given the circumstances.
Create and keep to a new routines
It is important to create and keep up with a new routine. Create a schedule for yourself that includes a wake-up time and a time to go to bed. Ensure you are keeping up with daily hygiene as you would before. It’s important to establish structure, predictability and a sense of purpose with these new routines. Block time for yourself to create, whether that means to write, cook, paint or sculpt. When Shakespeare found himself quarantined from the plague, he wrote King Lear. We are all capable of greatness. This might be the perfect time to learn to play that guitar that has been collecting dust in your room, or to connect with somebody to chat in a new language, through the website Conversation Exchange. Check YouTube and Pintrest for lessons and ideas.
With Gyms, coffee shops and our favourite spots recently closing, it’s an especially difficult time to focus on our physical and mental health. However this is the most important time for self-care; science has shown that exercise, good nutrition and socializing are directly linked to emotional well-being, so now is the time to get creative.
Create a healthy-living routine for yourself, the new routines will give you mental strength. If you have stairs, walk up and down them many times during the day; take the time for some light stretching or take a walk outside if you can; if you have a yoga practice, keep it up on your own or with help from one of the many teachers available on YouTube. Hold yourself a dance session, to your favourite music and dance like nobody is watching, because nobody is watching!
Reflect, relate and reframe
This crisis also offers us an unexpected chance to check in with ourselves. This is an opportunity for slowing down and reflecting on life and our goals. Think about what you want, do your priorities reflect this? If not, now is a great time to reassess and implement change to your daily living and routines.
Please keep in mind that experiencing stress and negative emotions can have positive consequences. Studies show that people who go through very difficult life experiences can emerge from it with a stronger sense of psychological resilience, rekindled relationships and a renewed appreciation of life. Some describe starting to live more fully and purposefully. With care and planning, we, too, can stay psychologically strong during the pandemic and perhaps even grow from this transformative experience.