patient at the museum

Hope & Understanding for Patients With Vision Loss

Individuals with vision loss can lead full, productive lives. However, when first faced with the reality of vision loss, life can seem overwhelming. Patients may often react with denial, anger, fear, grief, hurt, rejection, abandonment, and/or the fear of these things. Without guidance, in many cases there is a great potential for isolation, depression, and dependence. This can be a trying time for the family as well as the patient, so early interventions can make a critical difference.

In an effort to support patients and their families through this process, the Moran Eye Center provides integrated services to patients with vision loss called the Patient Support Program—unique in this region and now modeled world wide.


“The human being is born with an incurable capacity for making the best of things.”

Helen Keller


Patient at the Museum

Moran’s Patient Support Program offers comprehensive services, including the following:

  • Orientation to Vision Loss Seminar (at no cost) - We host a monthly, two-hour seminar for visually impaired individuals and their families. Topics include hints and tips to work with your condition and resources that can help you.
  • Vision Rehabilitation - Dr. Robert Christiansen offers vision rehabilitation to improve functional ability through the evaluation of decreased vision or visual field, contrast sensitivity, lighting needs, and glare or photophobia. By appointment.
  • Counseling (Individual & Family) - Our experienced professionals provide individual or family counseling by appointment. Counseling gives our patients with new or ongoing vision loss an opportunity to better understand and deal with the emotional response to vision loss, to address psychological issues, and to be encouraged and supported through the adjustment process.
  • Health & Behavior Assessment & Intervention - Through a health-focused clinical assessment, we evaluate health, behavioral, and social factors affecting patients’ well-being. We then develop a treatment plan based on intervention strategies designed to help patients towards better understanding and managing the disease processes.
  • Support & Education Groups - These groups give our patients opportunities to share experiences with others in the same situation and to receive information and encouragement. They can also provide hands-on training for living with vision loss.
  • Referrals - We provide patients with referrals to the excellent services offered by many local agencies that assist the blind.
Does my vision loss qualify me for Social Security Disability?
You can get disability benefits if you are legally blind or if your vision problems prevent you from working. Legal blindness is when your vision cannot be corrected better than 20/200 or if your visual field is 20 degrees or less in your better eye.
Can I still drive?

Each state has its own rules on driving. In Utah, you must have visual acuity of 20/40 for an unrestricted driver’s license; a restricted driver’s license can be obtained if you have visual acuity of 20/100 and if you have a vision statement form signed by your ophthalmologist or optometrist. What resources are available to help me to see better? There are many assistive devices available. Which device is helpful really depends on the cause of your visual impairment. Assistive devices include the following:

  • Magnifiers of varying strength and type
  • Lights
  • CCTVs (closed circuit television—electronic desktop magnifiers)
  • Glasses—magnifying reading
  • Bioptic telescope
  • Prism
There are also simple changes you can make around your home to improve contrast.
How do I get a guide dog?

There are several guide-dog training schools in the United States; however, there are none in Utah. The first step is to be certified in cane travel. Virtually all guide-dog schools require this as a prerequisite. Schools require that the blind person must travel to the school where they will be matched with a dog and trained to handle their dog.

Please contact us for more information.

See what some of the Moran Eye Center's patient support program clients are saying about their experiences:

Thank you for helping me cross this bridge into my macular degeneration.

Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

Took me awhile but now I found my voice! I think you all rock at Moran Eye Center [Patient Support Program]. Keep up with good work!

I hope to help increase some awareness of [Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension] because most people who have it are so misunderstood by many in the medical field and others that it greatly can increase the suffering. Thanks to the support group I felt for the first time I could connect with people who could understand what I went through a few years ago.

Because of your Maintaining Independence Class, I called ahead for a shopper at [a department store]! They were so nice about it. THANK YOU!

The [Maintaining Independence Class] was so important to me. I took a risk in coming, not expecting much, and I had no idea how much I would benefit from it.

Because of the [Maintaining Independence Class], I walk a little taller, knowing there are others out there who understand.

This [visual impairment] is not me. I have this, but it is one part of the bigger me.

My whole family and I are so appreciative of the help and support you offer to my father. I am amazed that you don't just stop at the eye exam. We just moved my father to this area and it was an agonizing decision. But now I see all the doors opening for him.

Your program offers so much information. You're doing a very, very fine job.

I just wanted to thank you so much for taking time talking to me. I really appreciate it. You made my day!

This Support Group for Adults with Vision Loss is so wonderful! I love what the Moran is doing with this program!

I am so very grateful for our [Support Group for Adults with Vision Loss]. It has been such a blessing.

I think of this [Support Group for Adults with Vision Loss] like a family.

I'm so thankful for this [Support Group for Adults with Vision Loss]. I don't feel so isolated anymore.

I don't think you realize the magnitude of what you do [facilitating the Support Group for Adults with Vision Loss]. I finally felt like I wasn't the only one. I was so isolated and now I know I'm not alone.

I feel so validated after talking to you.

Even just talking to you on the phone about [losing my vision] has been helpful. I feel better. Thank you for listening.

Lisa Ord

Lisa Ord, PhD, LCSW

Dr. Ord is director of the ophthalmology-based Patient Support Program and assistant clinical professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. She provides counseling, support groups, and the Orientation to Vision Loss Program at the John A. Moran Eye Center. Dr. Ord comes to Moran with rich experience in a private counseling practice; with extensive schizophrenia research in the native population in Palau, Micronesia and at the University of Utah Hospital’s Psychiatry Department; and with teens in the Teen Mother Program, also at the University of Utah’s Hospital. In addition, Dr. Ord has taught research at the University of Utah and stress management workshops for nurses at Belau National Hospital.

Robert M. Christiansen, MD

Robert M. Christiansen, MD, FACS, runs a Low Vision Rehabilitation Clinic at the John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. He is a nationally recognized expert in the field of low vision. Throughout his career he has been dedicated to care of the partially sighted and has been an advocate for the rights of those who are visually... Read More




John A. Moran Eye Center 801-581-2352

Kasey D. Mitchell, MOT, CLVT, OTR/L

Kasey Mitchell MOT, OTR/L, CLVT is the Life Skills Clinic Manager. The Life Skills Clinic is the faculty practice arm of the Division of Occupational Therapy in the College of Health. Kasey has been an occupational therapist for over 10 years with an emphasis in neurorehabilitation. He now combines that with advanced certfication in low vision t... Read More


Occupational Therapy


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Darran Zenger

Darran Zenger, MSW, CSW

Darran is a Certified Social Worker who is our Sensory Impairment Specialist at the Moran Eye Center. He teaches the Maintaining Independence with Vision Loss as well as co-facilitates the Orientation to Vision Loss Seminar. Darran is blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa and brings a unique perspective regarding independence and losing vision. Darran has interest in trauma, substance use and relationship issues.

Amy Henderson

Amy Henderson, MSW, LCSW

Amy Henderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist for the Patient Support Program. Amy assists patients with vision loss and blindness by providing emotional and psychological support; individual, couples and family counseling; support groups and psycho-education; and linkage to community resources. Amy graduated from the University of Utah with her Masters of Social Work in 2014 and has nearly 15 years of experience in the mental health field. Amy brings to our program a passion for and special expertise in supporting our patients through adjustment issues, grief and loss, trauma-related concerns, anxiety and depression.

Cinnamon Nash

Cinnamon Laing Nash, MSW, CSW

Cinnamon Laing Nash, MSW, CSW, facilitates the Orientation to Vision Loss Seminar for the Patient Support Program. Cinnamon earned a Master’s of Social Work degree from the University of Utah and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Utah State University. In addition to working in the Patient Support Program for three years, her background includes working in the Emergency Department, Center for Safe and Healthy Families, and Behavioral Health Inpatient Unit at Primary Children’s Hospital. Her interests include group dynamics, teambuilding, crisis intervention, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, parent-child interaction therapy, divorce education and support for children, and employee assistance. Cinnamon enjoys working with the Patient Support Program’s visually impaired patients and feels inspired by them as she travels with them along their journey of adjustment and accomplishment.

The Patient Support Program was pioneered more than two decades ago by Julia Klienschmidt, PhD, LCSW, former director of the Moran Eye Center Patient Support Services Program. Her research in how people responded to a visual disability helped her establish a reputation as one of the world’s experts on the psychosocial impacts of vision loss.

John A. Moran Eye Center 65 Mario Capecchi Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84132