Fall Programs 2020

Fall Programs 2020 - Image of smiling cartoon pumpkins with the Blind Beginnings Butterfly floating over them.
Kids Connect Support Group | Exploring Work Wednesdays | Virtual Parent’s Night Out | Online Baby Beginnings Program / Adam’s Accessible Story Time | Creating Connections | Online Youth Leadership Training Program | Baking With Blind Beginnings | Online Teen Tech Workshops

Kids Connect Support Group

Third Tuesday of the Month 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Many children across BC are missing the social connection with other kids at school and in their communities. Each Tuesday, children 7 – 13 years of age who are blind or partially sighted can connect with each other in our Blind Beginnings Zoom room. This is a place to share struggles, strategies, and successes, but also to play games, tell stories, and make new friends.

Who can attend:Children & youth who are blind or partially sighted 7 – 13 years
3rd Tuesday of the month from 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room
Register now for the Kids Connect Support Group!

Exploring Work Wednesdays

Second Wednesday Of The Month 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

What kind of careers do people who are blind or partially sighted have? What are some potential career paths? What is it like for an employee who is blind or partially sighted at a workplace?

Parents quite often ask these types of questions, and uncertainty about future careers can be very stressful for both families and youth.  In order to help answer some of these questions, we are inviting parents and youth to our Blind Beginnings Zoom Room this Fall as we meet individuals who are blind or partially sighted and hear all about their own employment journeys.

Each session will consist of two guest speakers who will tell us about how they chose their career, what training, education, and accommodations may have been required for their job, and any challenges they may have had to overcome.  

Our goal is to not only inform but also to inspire youth that may feel unsure of what kind of jobs may await them as they enter the workforce.

Who We Will Meet:

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

In this first session, we’ll meet Mark and Lisa Bentz, a brother and sister who are both blind. Mark is a registered massage therapist and the owner of Electra Health, while Lisa has spent most of her career as a Psychiatric Social Worker.

Wednesday October 14, 2020

Our second session will feature Shawn and Gail Bishop, a married couple who are both partially sighted. Shawn works for the City of Vancouver as an IT and Identity Administrator while Gail is a Senior Software Developer at Scientific Games Digital.

Wednesday November 11, 2020 

In this last session of this program, we welcome Patricia Elgersma and Angell Lu-lebel, both of whom are blind and have previously volunteered on the Board of Blind Beginnings. Angell works for Canada Revenue Agency as a bilingual Taxpayer Services Agent while Patricia is a Project Manager at HSBC Canada.

When: September 9, October 14, and November 11 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room
Register now for Exploring Work Wednesdays! 

Virtual Parent’s Night Out

Every 2nd Thursday 7:00 pm

Parents are invited to connect online, without your children, to share your challenges, frustrations, worries, and strategies for coping. Some of you aren’t seeing all the professionals who normally come into your home to work with your child, some of you are juggling home-schooling and working from home, some of you may have lost your jobs. Whatever your situation, this group is a place to receive support from other parents as well as a registered clinical counselor.

Who can attend: Blind Beginnings Parents across BC
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room
When: Every 2nd Thursday at 7:00pm
Register now for Virtual Parent’s Night Out/Online Support Group

Online Baby Beginnings Program / Adam’s Accessible Story Time

Every Second Saturday  9:00 am – 11:00 am

Our Online Baby Beginnings Program, in partnership with Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada BC, is a bi-monthly drop-in group for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers who are blind or partially sighted and their caregivers.

Parents of children birth to five years of age are invited to connect online every second Saturday. We start at 9:00 am with a consultation with Margret Hanke, an Early Child Vision Specialist from Vision Loss Rehabilitation BC. This is a chance for parents to ask specific questions about your child’s vision and/or development.

At 9:30 am, All Blind Beginnings children/youth and their families are invited to join the Zoom room for Adam’s Accessible Story Time! Adam will read stories, but also provide image description and explain concepts that might be new to some listeners. Following each story listeners can share their thoughts or ask questions about the story.

After the stories, parents are welcome to stay in the room for some social connection and support from other parents, and Shawn Marsolais. This is a chance to share strategies and celebrate successes with a group that can relate to the experience of raising a child with a visual impairment.

Who can attend:
From 9:00 – 9:30 – Parents/Caregivers of children birth to 5 years of age
From 9:30 – 11:00 – Any Blind Beginnings child/youth and their families
When: Every other Saturday through the Fall
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room
Register now for Online Baby Beginnings / Adam’s Accessible Story Time

Creating Connections

Last Friday of the Month 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

On the last Friday evening of each month youth who are blind or partially sighted 12 years and older are invited to connect online for what we are now calling our Creating Connections Workshop!

Instead of a structured discussion about how to socialize and fit in, we’re just going to socialize and connect. This is a chance to meet some new youth and make some new friends. I think we can safely guarantee some laughter and fun as well.

Who can attend: Children & youth who are blind or partially sighted 12 – 20 years
When:  4th Friday of the month excluding December.
Register now for Creating Connections

Online Youth Leadership Training Program

Thursdays Sept 17 – Oct 22  4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

For over ten years, Blind Beginnings has hosted a Youth Leadership Weekend each Spring for teens who are blind or partially sighted. Historically, it has drawn youth 13 – 19 years of age from all across BC to participate in a series of sessions and activities that are designed to build confidence and employment skills in order to prepare them for their future transition to work and adult life.

This year our training weekend had to be canceled because of COVID-19, but after much thought we are pleased to announce that we have decided to offer this valuable program as a six-part series, hosted online throughout the Fall.

The sessions will run on six consecutive Thursdays starting on September 17. Each session will focus on a different leadership skill and in order to graduate as a Youth Leader,(which enables the youth to start volunteering on our youth led projects) participants will need to participate in all six sessions.

The sessions are as follows:

Session 1 September 17 – Introductions/Team Building/What makes a good leader

Session 2 – September 24 – Communication: Empathy & Active Listening

Session 3 – October 1 – Self-advocacy: How to Ask for What You Need

Session 4 – October 8 – Public Speaking & Presentation Skills

Session 5 – October 15 – Professionalism & Attitude

Session 6 – October 22 – Benefits of Volunteering and Youth Leader Opportunities Within Blind Beginnings

The objective of this program is to provide youth with transferable skills and volunteer experience that will assist them in their future employment pursuits. 

Once trained, Youth Leaders will be ready to volunteer for in several capacities including:

  • Being a mentor and resource to younger children who are blind or parents raising a child that is blind 
  • Providing awareness presentations in their communities 
  • Contributing to our Limitless Podcast and/or Blog
  • Assisting in the planning of group projects, fundraisers, and special events 

Who can attend: Children & youth who are blind or partially sighted 13 – 19 years

All participants must be members of Blind Beginnings.  You can become a member or renew your membership at https://www.blindbeginnings.ca/support/membership/.

Please note, registration for this program is different than our other programs. To register for the Online Youth Leadership Program, email Shawn Marsolais at: shawn@blindbeginnings.ca and include the following information:

  • Name of participant 
  • Date of birth
  • Visual impairment diagnosis
  • Email address to send Zoom links
  • Phone Number

The deadline to register for this program is Friday, September 11, 2020. Space is limited and spots will be available on a first come first serve basis.

If you have any questions or require more information, please feel free to contact us at 604-434-7243 or toll free at 1-866-736-8620.  We look forward to welcoming your teen into our Youth Leadership program.

Baking With Blind Beginnings

Last Saturday of the Month 10:00 AM

One of our first Blind Beginnings programs ever offered was our Family Community Discovery program where BC’s children and youth who are blind or partially sighted and their families attended a range of outings in the community to learn new concepts through hands on experiential learning.
The purpose of this program is twofold: 1) offer opportunities to children and youth who are blind or partially sighted to learn about their community and concepts at their own pace, and 2) offer families to spend leisure time together while meeting other families who form part of their network of support.

This fall we are going to try family Community Discovery in a completely new way:   our new Online Baking with Blind Beginnings Program!

Each month, families who register for this program will receive the recipe and list of ingredients and equipment needed in advance. On the morning of the program, families will join us in the Blind Beginnings Zoom Room from their kitchens across BC. Together we will each prepare and bake that day’s recipe. We will be led through the process by one of our long-time Youth Mentors Jill Sloane. If you attended our online Independent Living Skills Workshop this summer, you know how competent and capable Jill is.

Jill grew up with a visual impairment, but lost her remaining sight at age 15, and had to learn how to do everything all over again. She now lives independently, a plane ride away from her family, and has direct experience on how vital these skills are, as she tells us:

“I always had plans to move to Vancouver and attend university, and without these life skills there’s no way that would have happened. In my opinion, life skills are one of the main things needed to become independent, and they are a great way of showing family and friends that you are capable and can do anything you put your mind to! I was so grateful to have the instructor I did teach me all of these things, and I am so excited to be able to lead the Baking with Blind Beginnings program.”

As Jill talks us through the steps to bake our delicious treats, families will follow along in their kitchens. If you are stuck, you can unmute and ask your questions. When our baking is in the oven, we can enjoy some social time together while we wait for, and then taste what we have made.

So what are we making? Prepare your sweet tooth, we’ve come up with a list of recipes that will be sure to please everyone in your household!

September 26 – Brownies
October 24 – Cookies
November 28 – Chocolate Zucchini Loaf (which will be a great way to demonstrate to your kids just how delicious vegetables can be)

Who can attend: Any Blind Beginnings family across BC
Please note: This is a family program, so we would ask that each child with a visual impairment is accompanied by at least one parent or responsible adult.

Recipes will be sent on the Friday, a week before the baking session to allow families time to purchase the necessary ingredients. If you know now that you wish to register for all 3 sessions, please include that information when you register.
Register now for Baking With Blind Beginnings!

Online Teen Tech Workshops

With more and more programs and services (including our own here at Blind Beginnings) being offered online these days, it’s more important than ever that youth are comfortable using all manner of technology. From assistive technology to mobile phone apps and even video games, technology is an important part of our everyday lives and having a better understanding of this technology can be a truly vital component in creating confidence.

That’s why we thought it was important to create a series of workshops that specifically centers around technology, to both educate youth on what’s available, as well as provide a deeper understanding of commonly used programs in order to give youth more confidence in using them.

We will be running our Online Teen Tech Workshops every Thursday afternoon in November at 4:30pm, and will offer teens an online space to come together to learn more about various types of technology.

The first Workshop on November 5th will feature Zoom Conferencing.  Zoom is everywhere these days, used by schools, organizations, and even families as a virtual meeting space, so we felt it was a fitting place to start. We will cover core topics such as:

  • How do you join a meeting
  • How to turn your audio and video on and off
  • How to position your camera so you’re visible
  • How to raise and lower your hand
  • How to use the chat feature
  • How to use the break out rooms
  • How to leave a meeting

We will also spend some time in that first session to find out what your teen wants to learn about in subsequent weeks. Some possible topics are:

  • Foundations of the iPhone/iPad, including VoiceOver and Zoom, gestures, how to organize your Home Screen, etc.
  • Favorite apps of people who are blind or partially sighted
  • How to navigate a website using both a computer or a smart device
  • Messaging apps or services popular with teens
  • Accessible games

The program will run for four weeks, and will be run by Shawn Marsolais and Matthew Alvernaz, one of our Blind Beginnings Youth Mentors.  Matthew is a totally blind youth attending BCIT. He has been interested in technology to some degree ever since he was a child, and is studying to become a software developer. He is familiar with many different forms of assistive technology due to being designated as one of the SETBC test dummies during high school. His main hobbies are reading, watching YouTube, and playing with his guide dog Atari.

When: Four consecutive Thursday afternoons:  November 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2020.
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room – so from the comfort of your home!
Time: 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Cost: There is no cost for this workshop; however, all participants must be members of Blind Beginnings.

Register now for Online Teen Tech Workshops!

Registration Information

If you would like to attend any or all of these sessions, register by emailing Emily at:  emily@blindbeginnings.ca.   Please provide the name of all participants, and ages of any children or youth, and the program or online event that you wish to attend.  Also include the email address we can send the Zoom link to.

All participants must be members of Blind Beginnings.  You can become a member or renew your membership at https://www.blindbeginnings.ca/support/membership/.