Photo © Courtesy of Balance for Blind Adults
We support, listen and teach
The keys to achieving an open world for people with sight loss lie in trust, empathy, respect, and independence. Barbara, a client with sight loss, found all those things at BALANCE. This Toronto-based organization fosters inclusion and support for adults who are blind or living with sight loss.
“I have struggled with finding community recreational activities for seniors that could accommodate my sight loss into their programming,” said Barbara, who is a senior. “I found myself feeling more isolated with each passing year. I now attend BALANCE’s Strength and Stability program once a week.”
BALANCE focuses on the whole person. They provide a variety of services on an individualized basis, including technology training, mobility training, occupational therapy, mental health and wellness counselling, and more. By providing fully customized support and instruction to each individual, services address the needs and wishes of the whole person. This is what BALANCE’s participants say makes the most significant difference to them: the program flexes to their needs and wishes, rather than expecting them to fit into set offerings.
BALANCE’s relatively small size has allowed them to rely on innovation and out-of-the-box thinking to better service their clients. With a very low rate of employment for blind persons in Canada, and their focus on the importance of AT training, BALANCE saw an opportunity to train trainers, provide more service to those in need, and provide work experience to blind persons in Ontario.
With core funding from Ontario Health and additional sponsorship from CIBC Foundation and several assistive tech companies, BALANCE introduced the cutting-edge Assistive Technology Apprenticeship program. Open only to people with sight loss, the program provides paid work experience and is self-paced. The program is meant to act as a head start for blind adults looking to explore technology and gain valuable work experience. A graduate of the program shared: “Working with the AT Lead and other apprentices allowed me to learn and further enhance my knowledge about a wide range of technologies…I loved seeing the clients succeed.”
Building on the success of this program, BALANCE has created the new Pre-Employment Program. Funded by United Way Greater Toronto and donors, this new program provides information and support to employment service providers in Toronto so that they can more confidently accommodate job seekers who are blind or partially sighted. In coordination with the Assistive Technology Apprenticeship, this program will give blind job seekers the knowledge and support they require to find employment and learn new skills. As one apprentice shared: “BALANCE builds community and changes lives.”
Donate at balancefba.org/donate
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