Nonprofits’ combined visions create evening of eye and film screenings | ParkRecord.com

Nonprofits’ combined visions create evening of eye and film screenings

(Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

Barbara Wirostko, M.D., adjunct professor of ophthalmology at the University of Utah and an eye doctor at the Moran Eye Center at Kimball Junction, wanted to do something vision-health related for the Park City community.

"The Moran Eye Center does a lot of outreach both nationally and globally, especially in Haiti with the Hope Alliance, so I thought we should do something locally," Wirostko said. "I live in Park City and wanted to better serve the needs of the local residents."

So Wirostko, who also has an associate professor adjunct position in bioengineering at the University of Utah, teamed with two local nonprofits – the People's Health Clinic, which provides medical services to the uninsured residents living in Summit and Wasatch Counties, and the Park City Film Series, for a night of film and eye screenings.

The event, which will feature a free screening of Peter Middleton and James Spinney's documentary "Notes On Blindness," not rated, will be held on Thursday, March 8, at the Park City Library's community room and Jim Santy Auditorium.

Park City Film Series Executive Director Katharine Wang said the film, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and has since been screened at 40 different film festivals around the world, has an extrasensory component that will be utilized for the Park City screening.

"The filmmakers have created a rich, immersive soundtrack calibrated specifically for blind and sighted audiences," she said. "This track uses enhanced sound design and additional audio from the characters in the film to guide the audience through the story. Instead of a narration-led model (as in the standard audio description track) this approach aims to create a rewarding and complete audio experience that coheres tonally with the dramatic universe of the film."

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Wirostko said the night will start with free vision screenings at 5 p.m.

"We'll check vision and eye pressure in both adults and children," she said. "We will also offer free hearing tests."

People can sign up for the tests by visiting http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0c4aadaf22aaf49-notes. They can also sign up by calling Aimee Armer, development director at the People's Health Clinic, at 435-333-1871.

Sign-ups are welcome, but not required, Wirostko said.

"The whole idea is to reach, educate and offer a service for our community," Wirostko said.

An education station with Dr. William Barlow and Amy Henderson will also offer information from 5-7 p.m.

"Dr. Barlow is one of our ophthalmologists here as well as the main Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City," Wirostko said. "Amy is a low-vision specialist and specializes in clinical social work and psychotherapy."

"Notes on Blindness," which is about writer and theologian John Hull, will screen from 7-8:30 p.m., said Wang.

"[The film] captures the reality of what he is facing – the fear, depression and sorrow – but it also shows how he finds the joy of the things that he discovers. Because he doesn't have sight, his other senses are amplified."

Wang said the film also gives the audience a taste of what it's like to go blind.

"Blindness is not absolute darkness. That's interesting, too, because it's not black or white," she said. "Since we live in a sighted world, those of us who can see don't really have a clear understanding of being blind. What do you lose? What do you gain? And how does John Hull go forward with this?"

"Notes on Blindness" is based on audio diaries Hull created over the course of six years and published in 1990.

"While there are actors that act out these recordings, the audience are hearing his recordings," she said.

Also, Wang said the Park City Film Series recently upgraded the Jim Santy Auditorium theater to enhance the audio-description and accessibility.

"The Film Series is now able to offer closed captioning and Audio Description for the majority of our films, thanks to our partnership with Sundance Institute and grants that we received from the Dumke Foundation and Summit County Restaurant Tax," she said.

People's Health Clinic Executive Director Beth Armstrong said "Notes on Blindness" is a good resource for the community.

"I think this film is helpful for people at any age to be able to have something they can reference back to if, God forbid, they suffer any type of eye illness or injury," she said.

Armstrong said there are other resources available for people who are blind or going blind.

"These things are not just available for those who can afford them," she said. "There is assistance for the most vulnerable in our community that doesn't have access to insurance and eye-care coverage."

The People's Health Clinic offers vision days, a partnership with the Moran Eye Center and The Hope Alliance.

"People can come in and get eye exams on those days," Armstrong said.

A panel discussion will following the documentary.

The panel, which will be monitored by Wirostko, will be introduced by Armstrong and feature the following panelists:

• Judy Summer, Moran Eye Center patient, local artist, and Park City resident with visual challenges

• Colleen Schubach, O.D., a doctor of optometry at the University of Utah and Moran Eye Center, who specializes in contact lens and visual therapy

• Marissa Larochelle, M.D., an academic assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the John A. Moran Eye Center who specializes in cataract surgery as well as the diagnosis and management of patients with infectious and inflammatory conditions of the eye.

• Jeff Pettey, M.D., the John Moran Eye Center director of education and an assistant professor at the University of Utah Department of Ophthalmology/Visual Sciences.

• Amy Henderson, L.C.S.W. , a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist at the patient support program of ophthalmology/visual sciences.

• William Barlow, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology/visual sciences (specialty cataract and refractive surgery).

• John Hanrahan, M.D., medical director and co-founder of the People's Health Clinic.

The panel will discuss concerns and new developments in blindness and eye care.

"People usually think about going to the doctor for their annual check up and they go to the dentist, but they don't always think about taking care of their eyes in the same way," Wang said. "This is important especially when we live in such a high altitude."