If you or someone you know is in need of eye care and has special needs, such as a congenitally impaired child, this clinic can provide you with the utmost care and service.

About Us

The Special Visual Assessment Clinic (or SVAC clinic) specializes in treating patients with special needs. Using equipment developed at UC Berkeley to specifically treat those with special needs, our team optometrists can thoroughly evaluate eye health and determine visual needs.

Our Services

Visual assessments tailored to each individual 

This clinic offers a wide range of eye care services and provides intensive assessment of these patients’ visual abilities. The quality of their lives are often improved with better corrected vision and understanding of their visual potential.

Our clinic serves infants, children, and adults with multiple disabilities including cognitive, motor, and hearing impairments that accompany their visual impairment or blindness. Referrals to the SVAC clinic result from the Early Childhood Blind and Low Vision Specialists with LightHouse Little Learners, the California School for the Blind, Regional Centers, school districts, residential facilities, pediatricians, optometrists, and by word of mouth from parents of the children SVAC clinic serves. 

Did You Know?

Special Needs that Affect Vision Include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Preterm Birth or Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Other complex congenital syndromes

Our History

The Special Visual Assessment Clinic was created in 1984 when Amanda Hall, Ph.D. (the low vision rehab specialist) and Deborah Orel-Bixler (a graduate student in Physiological Optics) recruited the Berkeley Optometry Low Vision resident Lori Sakamoto, O.D. to examine children with special needs. Their clinical goal was to answer the parent’s question of “what can my baby/child see?” in this population of non-verbal, visually impaired young patients. Measures of vision were obtained using preferential looking and VEP techniques, glasses were prescribed (most often for the first time despite high refractive errors) and detailed reports, including educational recommendations, were provided to the families.

SVAC Clinic Facts

Our doctors specialize in examining individuals with motor impairments and those who are non-verbal.

Optometric equipment that was developed here at UC Berkeley is used to specifically examine and treat those with special needs. 

Contact Us

Appointments can be made in person or by telephone.

Special Visual Assessments
Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science
200 Minor Addition
UC Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720 
(510) 642-2020

Clinic Chief
Deborah Orel-Bixler, OD, PhD, FAAO
Associate Clinical Professor