Board of Directors

Maria ZeldisMARIA ZELDIS, President

Maria graduated with a B.A. from UBC in 2006 and went on to complete her law degree at the University of Toronto in 2009. She specialized in commercial real estate at a national law firm, and currently acts as legal counsel for an international real estate company.

While at UBC, Maria was an active volunteer and fundraiser for the CNIB and Service for Sight. It was not until a decade later that Maria would have a personal experience with blindness.

Maria and her husband became involved with Blind Beginnings in 2014, when their eldest daughter became blind at just one year old. Since that time, the family has actively participated in the Pre-School and Junior Explorers programs with their blind daughter and her sighted little sister. The family has benefited immensely from the resources offered by Blind Beginnings, the network of other families they have met, and most of all from the positive outlook that Blind Beginnings has instilled in them about their blind daughter’s future potential.

Betty NobelBetty Nobel, Past President

Betty Nobel is a native British Columbian. She has been a Braille user since age five, and still loves to read and write Braille. After graduating from Killarney Secondary School in 1969, Betty attended UBC where she graduated first with a BA and later with a diploma in adult education and a MA in Higher education. Betty worked at Vancouver Community College for more than 30 years teaching adults who are blind and visually impaired. She taught Braille and computer courses and was the Department Head for much of that time. Her many volunteer activities include serving as the Past chair of the board of the CNIB Library for the blind and Past Chair of the board of the Canadian Braille Authority which is now called Braille Literacy Canada. Betty is the Vice Chair of the board of Accessible Media Inc.

Throughout her life, she has been committed to Braille as a primary literacy format for people who are blind. She believes that Unified English Braille will make Braille easier to learn and more available to those who need it.

During her career, Betty served as the Division Chair of Adult Basic Education. She also worked as Special Advisor on Disability Issues for the Ministry of Advanced Education. In the year 2000, Betty received the YWCA Woman of Distinction award in the category of Education Training and Development in recognition of her community work and innovative educational leadership.

Candice MahCandice Mah, VICE PRESIDENT

Candice Mah has over fourteen years experience in experiential marketing, communications and event management in industries including the arts, organic food, cosmetology, government and not-for-profits. Currently as the Marketing Experiential Manager at Nature’s Path, she is responsible for managing events and leading the company’s experiential and sampling program throughout North America.

She and her husband have a wonderful young son who was born partially sighted. When they learned about his diagnosis, they would ensure their son will lead a fulling life not limited by his vision. When she learned about Blind Beginnings, she immediately knew her values aligned with the organization’s mandate and signed up to volunteer her help where needed. Now as a board member, she is excited to promote and support the organization’s mission to inspire limitless potential for children and youth in BC who are blind or partially sighted.

During her free time, you can find her running along a trail, producing and directing short films or testing a new recipe for her Candice’s Cusina food blog videos.

Kim ZebehazyKIM ZEBEHAZY, SECRETARY

Kim is an Associate Professor in special education, blindness and visual impairment at the University of British Columbia. She is co-director of the Masters program to prepare teachers of students with visual impairments and director of the graduate certificate program in orientation and mobility (O&M). Kim’s research agenda includes investigating how to promote the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of students who are blind or partially sighted so that they can realize their potential. Prior to working in personnel preparation at the university level, Kim was an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments and certified O&M specialist working with children and youth, birth through 21 years. In addition to her certification in O&M, she is also a certified low vision therapist. She is co-chair of the cross-Canada committee that updated the Canadian National Standards for the Education of Children and Youth who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including those with Additional Disabilities. This document outlines the field’s vision for quality school programming.

Kim has a passion for art, in particular creative writing and photography. She loves nature, enjoys travel, and tries to be a yogi. She has been an avid supporter of Blind Beginnings, volunteering for youth leadership weekends, family camps, and Project Adventure whenever she is able. Kim was a board member of Blind Beginnings from 2010-2016 and is thrilled to be returning to the Board.

Clara Au-YeungClara Au-Yeung, Treasurer

Clara Au-Yeung majored in Economics at University of British Columbia during her undergraduate studies, and then decided to start her studies in accounting. She became a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) in 2014. She is currently a Senior Manager at KPMG’s Private Enterprise group with ten years of experience providing financial reporting and tax services to small business owners and their families. She enjoys bringing her expertise to her clients and is eager to share her knowledge as a Board member.

Clara has always had a passion for volunteering and has been volunteering with Canadian Cancer Society for the past years. She is a performance manager at KPMG and takes part in various volunteer opportunities at her work and within her community. She became interested in Blind Beginnings as she understands clearly how starting a family is a vulnerable time and given if a child is born into the world with different circumstances one small gesture from the community can change the perspective and journey for a family and their little one. She has a 3.5-year-old daughter with her husband and experienced the community support when her daughter showed delays in walking. The passion and effort of organizations that support families during this time of great love and vulnerability is truly the best gift we can provide to each other.

In her spare time, Clara enjoys singing, kick boxing, reading, travelling and spending time with her family and friends. Her greatest passion is developing herself personally and professional and hopes to become a great role model to her daughter.

Ishita Bhatia, youth representativeIshita Bhatia

Ishita is a 20 year old university student currently studying at Simon Fraser University. Her interest in education surrounding mental health had led her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree with a major in Psychology and wants to eventually settle into a career in Occupational Therapy.

Ishita has been partially sighted for a majority of her life. She started to rapidly lose her vision at the age of 7, which has resulted in her losing most of her central vision. Growing up, Ishita was a shy and reserved girl. This shy demeanor made it challenging for her to advocate for herself, and she often found herself wishing to be more confident in her abilities. As she grew, so did her interests, and she started to put herself out there for various volunteering opportunities. From child care centers to city-wide festivals, Ishita found herself loving the process of volunteering alongside like-minded individuals and has an immense love for giving back to her community in whatever way she could.

Today, Ishita is a devoted advocate for disability rights and has channeled her dedication in her internship with the Federal Ministry of Disability Inclusion as well as her position as Chair of the Delta Youth Council. She is a proud member of Blind Beginnings since joining in 2021 and is eternally grateful for the amazing opportunities and valuable relationships that she has acquired.

Sofeya DevjiSOFEYA, DEVJI, Member at Large

Sofeya is a teacher of students who are blind and visually impaired (TSVI) and Orientation & Mobility Specialist (O&M) in School District 8, Kootenay Lake. Sofeya’s passions involve being outside hiking, climbing, paddling and skiing. Her desire for being active in the outdoors has led her to develop a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities for her students who are blind and partially sighted.

Sofeya was one of two Kootenay TSVIs who were instrumental in creating Project Adventure, a program that promotes experiential education through outdoor adventures. Sofeya is a fierce advocate for outdoor program accessibility and has been instrumental in helping to create accessible recreation in her Nelson community. She has been a Paranoric ski guide for a visually impaired student athlete, created and supported rock climbing opportunities for individuals who are blind and partially sighted and currently oversees weekly goalball practices in Nelson. Sofeya has also held board positions with the Kootenay Climbing Association in Nelson and the British Columbia Vision Teachers’ Association in the past.

Sofeya has won the Community Sport Hero Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award for her work in advocacy, recreational accessibility and for developing unique place-based learning opportunities for her students. As an avid supporter of Blind Beginnings, Sofeya volunteers her time to help at family camps and leadership programs when she can. She is excited to join the Blind Beginnings board member team.

Richard MarionRichard Marion, Member at Large

Richard has been blind since birth. As a blind adult, he brings a lifetime of experience of dealing with overcoming barriers presented to him because of attitudes of people towards the abilities of people who are blind. Currently, Richard is in his third year as a board member and works in the field of accessibility doing website accessibility reviews and as the Access Coordinator in Access Transit Planning at TransLink.

Grant Hardy head shot pictureGrant Hardy, Member at Large

Grant was born totally blind and currently works as a Reporter for Accessible Media, where he hosts segments about events happening in the community and empowering portrayals of people with disabilities.

He just missed Blind Beginnings when growing up as he was 18 or 19 when the organization commenced, so he knows how beneficial its services are as he didn’t have access to them while growing up.

Grant always enjoys covering Blind Beginnings on AMI, and participated in the Do the Grind Blind fundraiser in 2017. He is passionate about all things techie, and loves music. He looks forward to contributing to Blind Beginnings to the best of his ability.

Coming soon:

Amit Gatenyo
Kathie Johnson