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March 25, 2020

Hello from our homes to yours!

Hello everyone. Well, week one (and a half) is in the books! We don’t know how long all this is going to go on, but we do know we can work together to flatten the curve by practicing physical distancing while remaining socially connected. We hope this newsletter finds you well, and if you are not feeling great in this moment, please know you are not alone, we all have our down times when we cannot be with others; humans are social creatures and we like our routines; we are here to help.

BALANCE has spent the past week re-tooling in order to provide more telephone and video conferencing opportunities so that you can do just that-stay connected. Our Assistive Technology teaching team has been providing telephone or video-calling lessons since last Monday, and we will continue to do so throughout this “distancing” time (and perhaps beyond, if it goes well!).

We’ve also added a NEW program to our offerings. Called the Tele-Support Wellness Team, this program involves phone based check-ins with our clients. Our calling roster is made up of our currently active clients, other past clients who wish to be on our check-in list, and new clients to BALANCE, who also wish to have this personal contact and learn more about resources and available groups, drop-ins, and other activities through BALANCE and elsewhere.

BALANCE wants you to know we are here for you. Stay tuned on the latest developments in new programs, groups or 1:1 training opportunities, through our website under the “What’s New” tab, “News” page: https://www.balancefba.org/news/.


Where to get the right information about COVID-19:

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 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.


NEW Opportunities to join our Group Programming from home!
New! Anxiety and Stress Management Group added, to start Monday March 30 10:00 a.m. by teleconference. If you want to take this 6 week program about how to better manage anxiety and stress (what better time?) please contact info@balancefba.org and we will get back to you about how to sign up.New! Coffee Connections “fun” groups, hosted by our newest volunteer, Elizabeth Mohler! Join Liz on Tuesdays from 5:30-7 or Saturday mornings from 10:30-12, or both! Occasional or always! Just email her at mohlerc@gmail.com for more information. Or dial in and be surprised: 647 558 0588. It’s social, it’s different, it’s fun. (it’s not counselling)


Spring cleaning with occupational therapy!

New! Naomi Hazlett has returned to offer her Centennial College students to BALANCE to provide our clients with telephone or video-conferencing based OT services! Staying at home? Well, it’s all about spring cleaning right now isn’t it? Here is what Naomi says:
Are you interested in getting organized around your home? Looking for tips and strategies on how to keep your space workable so you can access what you need? BALANCE is offering remote organization sessions as a part of OT services. For more information, contact Naomi at 416 919 9565.


Join the Sharing Space Support Group on Tuesdays / Wednesdays!
Sharing Space Support Group still has a few spaces if you would like to join them by telephone on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. If you would like to sign up, you do need to commit for the next few months. To learn more, please email Lisa Derencinovic at lisa_msw@hotmail.com She will tell you all about the groups and let you know more information. This is open only to BALANCE clients. You need a service agreement in place in order to participate. If you don’t have one, Lisa will let us know and we’ll see you are taken care of; service agreements can now easily be signed remotely.


It’s Farewell but not Good-bye to our Office Administrator Radka Gajdosova!
We are sad to report that Radka Gajdosova must leave us now to return to Czech Republic. Radka has made many valuable contributions at BALANCE, including deploying her brilliant event coordination skills to support the Info Fair, AGM, Benefit Concert, Because of BALANCE Campaign, and Holiday Open House. In addition she’s provided wonderful support to many clients, volunteers, and students, as well as all of our staff team. Thank-you Radka for a job really well done. Our team will miss you, for sure.
Radka will continue to support as a volunteer from afar, helping us out with the newsletter, and assisting Deborah until such time as we can open our doors again and hire the new Office Administrator.We wish you well Radka! Thanks for all you’ve done for us!


“In the Know” Section: A Few Tips About Nutrition During this Time

Dietitian Susan Fyshe has provided us with the following professional guidance while we try to stay healthy and bolster our immune systems:

Just touching base to say I hope you are all staying healthy and managing well through this challenging time.

Staying stocked with your favourite foods is no doubt a little more difficult right now…just focusing on healthy eating when comfort foods seem so much more appealing can be hard!  Despite these challenges, I encourage you to continue to eat a nourishing diet to help you stay healthy and keep your immune system strong.

A few tips:

♦︎  Whether you’re at home, or still going in to an essential workplace, try to keep your day to-day structured eating pattern.  Keep regular mealtimes.

♦︎  Make sure to get adequate protein each day.  When we’re comfort eating, or stocking our shelves with non-perishables, we have a tendency to lean more on carbohydrate foods.  But your immune system and general health need protein daily, so eggs, beans and other legumes, canned fish, and nuts and seeds can fit the bill nicely if you’re running low on your usual fresh meat, poultry and fish.

♦︎  Try to keep a high intake of vegetables and fruits.   If it’s hard to get fresh produce, there are lots of good-quality frozen and canned products that you can stock.  These foods are high in antioxidants and other phytonutrients that keep your body healthy and your defences strong.

♦︎ Dark chocolate has a long shelf life!  It’s filled with antioxidants, healthy fats, and even a good amount of fibre.  It’s the ideal comfort food.  Combine it with nuts or nut butters and you’ve got your protein too.

♦︎  Keep it simple..you don’t need to eat fancy to eat healthy.    If your pantry is a little light because you’re keeping your trips to the grocery store to a minimum, know that you can put together a nourishing and delicious meal with the simplest of ingredients.. beans, rice, frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, eggs, canned salmon or tuna, pasta.  If you have some time google ‘peasant food’ recipes..every culture has a strong history and tradition of delicious, nourishing, simple meals.

♦︎ Don’t forget to stay hydrated.  This plays an important role in helping your body keep foreign invaders out.  And it doesn’t just have to be plain water..different teas, coffee, mineral water..they all count.

♦︎ As always, and especially now, please try to get your sleep. Its so important for maintaining a healthy immune system. If you don’t have a good night, try to catch a nap the next day.  One of the joys of being at home!

Please take good care of yourselves!

Susan Fyshe MHSc RD

Healthy Lifestyle Nutrition Consulting

3107 Bloor Street West Suite 203

Toronto M8X 1E2



TTC Subway Service Advisory

Most of the announcements and scheduled closures are being revised or cancelled for now, please see the TTC announcements for full details: https://www.ttc.ca/Service_Advisories/index.jsp

March 23, 2020

Coffee Connections (hosted by Elizabeth Mohler) !

Friends and colleagues! We know the importance of physical distancing in order to keep others safe; we also know the power of connectedness and community. So, we have the perfect answer for you–a virtual coffee cluster! Come join Elizabeth and friends in her Zoom room  for a time of conversation on ways to stay connected during this difficult time. You bring the coffee; we’ll provide the platform. You can dial in if you cannot join through your computer. Dial in number: 647 558 0588

Topics  can include, but are not limited to:

–How to be a virtual volunteer.

–How to shop online or over the telephone.

–How to optimize your technology to stay connected with friends, family, and your broader community.

–Discussion of online events pertinent to the disability community.

–Finding that great recipe based on what’s in the pantry.

–Hey, unless otherwise advised, we can still go out in the fresh air, right? Let’s explore where group members have found safe, accessible walking trails.

–Heard a great podcast? We want to hear about it, and Elizabeth promises to bring one favorite podcast per session for your listening pleasure.


While we want this group to be a fun and social space, this is NOT a counselling group. BALANCE has several great resources for that, if you need it.

Humans are social beings; let’s come together in virtual community to support one another.

For more info, e-mail Elizabeth at:


Connecting Clusters will run Saturday mornings from 10:30-Noon, and Tuesday evenings from 5:30-7:00 PM, starting Tuesday March 24.

No need to register; just join us in the Zoom room! Don’t feel confident just yet getting into Zoom, we’ve got you covered–we have a phone in option; see details below!

Elizabeth Mohler is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Connect and Share with Elizabeth Mohler

Join Zoom Meeting



Meeting ID: 659 760 9376


One tap mobile



Dial         +1 647 558 0588

Meeting ID: 659 760 9376

March 17, 2020

Dear BALANCE community members: clients, colleagues, volunteers and friends:

The COVID-19 epidemic has demanded creativity of all of us, on many levels. At BALANCE, we began planning last Friday for a change in the way we deliver our services to you, in order to accommodate what we believed would be a requirement to stay home as much as possible. And indeed, that call was strengthened by Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer yesterday.

BALANCE is supporting the call to stay home, in the following ways:

  1. Suspension of Yoga, Strength and Stability programs, until further notice
  2. Using teleconference to provide Sharing Space Support Group and Anxiety and Stress Management programs
  3. Adding a virtual “Coffee Connection” opportunity for our clients, by zoom or telephone, with Elizabeth Mohler, 2x weekly (information in this newsletter)
  4. 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 April 6, at which time we will reassess the situation
  5. Cancelling all Orientation and Mobility lessons.
  6. Providing a new “virtual support service” 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

The physical BALANCE office at 2340 Dundas St. West is closed until April 6, at which time we will reassess. 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. If you go out, practice social distancing. We understand that this can be extremely challenging for people who are blind. IF YOU LIVE ALONE, AND YOU DO NOT BELIEVE YOU CAN MANAGE ON YOUR OWN AT THIS TIME, or you feel you may be at risk, please call this Home and Community Care number: 416-506-9888

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,
Deborah Gold
Executive Director

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:

Also: 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? Symptoms in young children may also be non-specific (for example, lethargy, poor feeding).

And 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 1-866-797-0000and 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.

You should:

  • 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: 1-866-797-0000

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.

Reinvent self-care

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.

Adapted from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/anxiety-coronavirus-mental-wellness-tips/2020/03/16/f187faf2-67b8-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html

March 13, 2020

Notice about COVID-19-From the Executive Director:

I am writing today to share with you, our community of clients, staff, volunteers, students and stakeholders/partners, about what we are doing at BALANCE for Blind Adults in the midst of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) threat.

Your care and safety are our main concern as we continue to deliver services, supports, and appointments in the midst of (COVID-19).

In order to make sure we are doing all we can to continue to provide you with the supports and services you need to be independent and fully engaged in your community, we must follow all of the precautions and recommendations of governments and public health leaders, medical professionals, and scientists.

You’ve probably heard a great deal of news. Not all of it is credible. But some of it is important and will help to keep you well and safe. The most important thing right now, about COVID-19, or Coronavirus, is to slow down the spread of the virus in our country, province and city. It’s important to keep ourselves well, and to get well quickly, but it’s just as important to fully participate in slowing the spread of the virus so that our health systems can cope properly with those who are diagnosed, so that sick people can get the care they need in a timely fashion. If we “flatten the curve” of the spread of the virus, by slowing it down, then the health system can cope more easily. If it starts to spread quickly, and “spikes” as it did in Italy and Iran, making a small hill look more like a mountain on the graph, then our health system will not be able to cope with all the sick people, and while our city does have a contingency plan for that, it’s not what we want to see happen.

Keeping in mind that this is an ever-changing situation, that we are monitoring on an ongoing basis, and understanding that these changes can happen daily or hourly, BALANCE remains “open for business”, but it is no longer “business as usual,” as follows:

  1. In order to participate responsibly in what is called “social distancing”, a proven effective way to curb the spread of the virus, starting the week of March 16, group programs will, as much as possible, move to teleconference until further notice. This includes: Sharing Space Support Groups, Soundscape group (upcoming), and Anxiety and Stress Management course. The instructor for each group will be in touch with participants about the teleconference calling numbers.
  2. All 1 to 1 lessons will continue as before, except many will be remote rather than face to face, to protect both clients and staff. Please be sure to clean your mobile phone, tablet, etc. with a Lysol wipe or other alcohol based disinfectant, at least 2x/day, to protect yourself and potentially, your instructor if you are in a 1 on 1 lesson. These devices carry microbes, and those microbes can be killed with regular disinfecting. Also, since we teach you on your own device, we want it to be clean when you bring it to the office for a lesson.
  3. Our office will remain open until further notice, regular hours. The office is being cleaned more regularly now, with a medically approved disinfectant spray. We are cleaning all surfaces such as door handles, light switches, chair arms and so on.
  4. Personal hygiene is so important. The alcohol based hand sanitizer that is on the wall just inside our door is for visitor/guest/client use. Please ask where it is located and we will give you a demonstration. Please use it upon entering our office, and again upon leaving. Please do not attend to an appointment with us if you are feeling unwell. Just call and explain and we will understand. Our staff do have medically approved masks on hand. If you arrive and you are coughing, you may be given a mask before being told we cannot see you. We strongly encourage you to wear it as you make your way back home.
  5. If you feel unwell, CALL your doctor’s office, don’t go there. Let them know your symptoms and they will tell you the next steps. If you feel unwell, and you do not cancel your appointment with us, and you arrive for the appointment, unfortunately, we will have to end the appointment or turn you away if you are sick. We do not want to be in this position.

The situation with Coronavirus is ever-changing world-wide. BALANCE is attempting to play our part to be a responsible community organization/corporate citizen and do the right things to prevent the spread of the virus. This includes ongoing monitoring of the situation, and keeping in touch with our Ministry of Health situation reports, and our community health partners, daily. Our clients, staff, volunteers and students will continue to catch colds and get sick from many causes. The steps we are all taking now, including frequent and longer-lasting hand-washing, coughing into the crook of the elbow, not touching our faces with our hands, and staying at home when we are sick, will go the longest way possible to preventing the rapid spread of the coronavirus, and all other viruses and bacteria, also. Personal hygiene and social distancing are our two most powerful weapons right now, and using them can help us to feel more in control and less anxious.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your trust and patience as we continue to work our way through this outbreak and meet the challenges together with a commitment to facts over speculation, and in the spirit of compassion for others.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call our office during regular working hours.

Deborah Gold, Executive Director