BALANCE and TTC Partner on New Streetcar Orientation Session

On June 26, 2018, the Toronto Transit Commission hosted BALANCE for Blind Adults for a private group orientation session for the new low floor streetcars. Twelve BALANCE service users and 5 BALANCE staff attended the exclusive session that had been organized by request of BALANCE for Blind Adults. Hosted by TTC Travel Trainer Desrianne McIlwrick, David the Driver Instructor and other TTC managers and staff, the event was hugely successful with participants rating the session as “excellent” and providing feedback that they  will now be much more confident when using the new streetcars. BALANCE thanks O and M instructor Anita Laurnitus for taking the initiative to bring this idea forward and for representing BALANCE during the organization of the event. TTC did a wonderful job of hosting, teaching and informing us all! We look forward to many more such opportunities between our two organizations in the future.

group entering the streetcar at accessible door group opportunity to explore the streetcar from front to back, and explore any features they needed togroup listening to presentation with Driver instructor looking on guide dogs resting Presto card practice with O and M instructor looking on small group chatting about streetcar features stop request button practice close up by blind participant Passenger emergency button and stop and ramp request button console participant completes survey with TTC employee group listening to presenter while seated or standing in the stationary streetcar

Orientation and Mobility Conference 2017

By Bill Phung, Orientation and Mobility Instructor

BALANCE staff recently attended the AER Orientation and Mobility Conference 2017 held on July 19th to 22nd in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Wyndham Grand. Over these four days, we were able to attend many interesting and informative sessions, which ranged from discussions on tools used to create tactile maps to current projects on the development and implementation of indoor navigation systems. One of the highlights was the keynote speech given by Dr. Steven Shladover. He joined us remotely to discuss automated vehicles in our future and the many barriers that needed to be overcome in order to make it a safe and realistic possibility. In another session led by Dr. Robert Wall Emerson, he discussed the research he and his team have been conducting for 10 years at “uncontrolled” crossings, those street crossings without lights, stop signs or “yield to pedestrians” type signage. While instances of these types of crossings are rare in Toronto, our team learned their teaching is indeed supported by the best evidence in the field.

At the conference, we were also able to reconnect with industry leaders who are actively developing products to help the blind and partially sighted community to travel safely. As an Orientation and Mobility Instructor, the latest tech has me most excited for my clients. To name a few, there is the latest iteration of the BuzzClip from iMerciv and a three-wired Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) system with Bluetooth from Polara. This really piqued my interest as it would allow a person with vision loss to remotely interact with the APS panels, which can sometimes be difficult to locate, particularly during the winter season.

My colleagues, Deborah Gold and Jordan Dumoulin, also presented on the topic of adapting instruction for adults with additional challenges which was well received and elicited a great group discussion amongst attendees. This was a great talking point, as we were able to share creative solutions from other O&M instructors in the field, such as hooking up a speaker and bell system to assist a client in locating a bathroom using auditory information.

Overall, we had a positive, enjoyable and enlightening experience! We are looking forward to attending more conferences in order to continuously grow as instructors and provide the best service possible to BALANCE participants!