Intricate, colorful costumes and elaborate sets enliven the dramatic storylines of operas for their audiences.
The John A. Moran Eye Center is partnering with the Utah Opera to help the blind and visually impaired experience the visual storyline of opera in a special performance.
The Utah Opera hosts an annual Blind and Visually Impaired Night. At the dress rehearsal of this year’s March 8 performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto, the Opera’s education director or artistic director will describe the set and staging to the audience. Guests can also handle props up close, read braille supertitle scripts, and listen to descriptive audio through headphones during the performance.
This event is one of the many inclusive resources Moran’s Patient Support Program offers. Program Director Lisa Ord, PhD, LCSW, assures that there is hope for a fulfilling and productive life after losing your vision. Ord and her team offer guidance and support to patients with low vision to not only cope but thrive with this significant living adjustment.
“We are the next step after doctors and medical treatments have done everything they can,” says Ord. “The program provides the education, resources, and support the visually impaired may need to adapt to vision loss.”
“Low vision” is a blanket term for poor vision that cannot be treated or cured with eyeglasses, contacts, or surgery. Over 4.2 million Americans age 40 and older are visually impaired, which includes both individuals who are legally blind and those who have low vision. She says the idea that all individuals who are legally blind see total darkness is one of many common misconceptions about blindness.
“Only about eight percent of people have no light perception or ‘complete blindness,’ so the majority of people with visual impairment are still able to see outlines of shapes,” says Ord.
The most common causes of vision loss are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. AMD is the leading cause of irreversible central vision loss among adults aged 55 and over worldwide.
With visual technology tools readily available today, Ord has a team including an occupational therapist, visual rehabilitation specialist, and counselors who can provide more advanced care for patients to live independently than ever before. These assistive tools include smartphone apps that enable easier navigation and announce detailed identification of surroundings and even identify familiar people to manage daily activities.
Moran provides a no-cost monthly Orientation to Vision Loss seminar available to anyone with vision impairment and their families, even if you’re not a Moran patient. The seminar shares helpful strategies such as using lighting contrast and magnification in your home to maximize remaining vision.
When a patient experiences sudden traumatic or gradual vision loss, they face not only physical challenges but often emotional struggles. Patients experience feelings of isolation and depression that can be overwhelming, according to Ord.
The Patient Support Program's services range from helping improve functioning to mental support. This includes no-cost emotional support groups. Individual and family counseling services are also available by appointment.
Additional services offered through the Patient Support Program include vision rehabilitation with Robert Christiansen, MD, FACS, and occupational therapy with Janice Moushegian, an occupational therapist with a certification in low vision therapy who offers in-home services by appointment. “We are here and there is help,” says Ord.