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Meerab Anwar is a volunteer on the DeafBlind Ontario Serivces’ Governance & HR Committee through our partnership with FORA: Network for Change’s “Rise on Boards” program. This program aims to place emerging young leaders from diverse backgrounds at the board or committee table. Meerab officially joined the Governance & HR Committee in February 2024. Prior to her joining this committee, she went on a tour of one of Deafblind Ontario Services’ supported living homes. Below is a reflection on her experience.

“On November 25, 2023, I was invited to a location tour of Treffry Home, a supported living home located in Georgina. The tour was generously organized for me by Sue and Lorraine Simpson, Director of Organizational Integration, and I was joined by Kathy, my board mentor. I was introduced to DBOS just a month prior through the support of the FORA network and at the time, I was completely new to the deafblind community. A tour of the home was the perfect way to interact with the people supported and see first-hand how individuals who are deafblind can live independently in the community. Lorraine led a very welcoming and informative tour that continues to be very memorable for me in several ways.

At first, we explored the living spaces. Each living space was personalized to reflect individual preferences (e.g. dark painted walls, nature-themed) helping to create a comfortable and familiar environment. In one of the bedrooms, a staff member showed us the wonderful systems in place to ensure each person can make independent decisions and showcase their preference. For example, a tactile calendar to provide contextual cues about activities in the upcoming week such as family visits, shower times, and haircuts. Before proceeding with any activity, obtaining consent was once again emphasized. I was unsure how staff would go about doing this especially for people that were non-verbal. Soon after, the staff creatively showcased the adaptive communication methods they used to gauge the emotions and comfort levels of people who use non-traditional forms of communication. This was a key new learning for me!

Moreover, I gained knowledge about the ways supported living homes ensure that accessibility and safety are top priority. Lorraine was very good at pointing out and educating us about the safety features such as adapted washrooms, modifications to assist with mobility, and the intentional use of certain colours. The colour contrasts were used to define features (e.g. doors vs. door frames, handrail vs. surrounding wall) and specific designs (e.g. the handrail returning to the wall at the end of stairs) created spaces that were incredibly user-friendly and inclusive. I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness and due diligence that went into designing such a space.

Another notable element of the tour was a beautiful sensory room for people to relax and gain exposure to a variety of sensory experiences. The wall paintings, adjustable lighting systems, projections, tactile panels, and much more were carefully selected and brought together to create a controlled but stimulating environment. A colourful plastic ball pit was also present for some recreational time. A discussion about public health procedures during the pandemic, also highlighted all the meticulous work that went into keeping these recreational and essential living spaces safe and running.

Overall, Treffry Home provided me with invaluable insights into the compassionate care provided to individuals who are deafblind. I was truly inspired by the resilience and resourcefulness demonstrated by both the people supported and the employees. As I continue my role as a committee member, I look forward to continuing my journey of learning and advocacy within the DeafBlind Ontario Services community.”

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