Profile: Canadian Helen Keller Centre

Story by Franco Cignelli, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Canadian Helen Keller Centre. This story first appeared on CHKC’s blog. To learn more about CHKC visit

Located in the Willowdale community is the Canadian Helen Keller Centre (CHKC). In operation since 1992, CHKC provides 16 affordable housing units on Willowdale Avenue known as the Rotary Cheshire Apartments (RCA). It also operates a fully accessible Training Centre on Empress Avenue where Canadians who are deafblind can learn life skills.

CHKC’s vision is to see a society where all individuals who are deafblind live free from limitations. Employing a staff of 60, CHCK is committed to ensuring that people who are deafblind are able to live their lives with the most freedom possible.

People like Nadine who is a CHKC consumer and employee. A CHKC consumer is a person who is both deaf and blind and who accesses our programs and services.

Nadine lives quite the life. If you were to find her on social media, you would learn that she likes the finer things, and that includes good food.

A Toronto native, Nadine is well known as a tenant at Rotary Cheshire Apartments (RCA) and as a part-time employee at both RCA and the Training Centre (pictured).

She has resided at RCA for over a decade where she enjoys socializing with other deafblind individuals like herself.

“It’s clean and quiet,” she says of RCA. “I have access to 24/7 on-duty service and I feel safe here.”

She continues, “I was 25 when I moved into my apartment at RCA. It changed my life because I was able to find more independence. I can buy food, do my own laundry, go to the bank, attend events and most important, I learned how to cook through the CHKC Training Centre. I also have learned, through intervenor services, how to budget.”

An intervenor is professionally trained to provide auditory and visual information to persons who are deafblind. They act as the eyes and ears, providing information about the environment and surrounding circumstances to their client.

Depending on the level of vision and hearing loss an individual has, different communication methods are used. Nadine uses ASL, but many people at CHKC use two-hand manual and other forms of communications.

Born with Rubella, Nadine attended Metro School for the Deaf during her elementary years, but it was not until she was 16-years-old that she began receiving intervenor services. By then she was a student at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute.

Some of the challenges that Nadine faces as a person who is deafblind are remedied in part by accessible larger print with her iPad, home computer and iPhone.

“The light is very bright in my kitchen so I can use what vision I have to cook everything I need. I cannot read small print, so when I go grocery shopping I ask my intervenor for help, or if I’m alone, I ask one of the clerks.”

In addition to her duties at the CHKC Training Centre, Nadine also works at Canada’s Wonderland. “I’m friendly and smile at everyone. I sweep the floor, clean up dirt from the tables and make sure that everything looks nice and clean. I can explain to guests where the maps and washrooms are located.”

If that was not enough, Nadine is also an instructor at George Brown College in the Intervenor for Deafblind Persons Program.

Nadine says that with her strong ASL skills “I use intervenor services three or four times a week. We go to the dentist, family doctor etc. My intervenor will guide me in crowded areas like the subway stations. If I am without an intervenor, I use gestures and write notes. I also use intervenor services to go to restaurants, museums, grocery stores and malls.”

She adds for emphasis, “everything that you do as a sighted and hearing person, I can do through intervenor services.”