Essential abilities and characteristics required for completion of the OD degree consist of certain minimum physical and cognitive abilities and sufficient mental and emotional stability to assure that candidates for admission, promotion, and graduation are able to complete the entire course of study and participate fully in all aspects of optometric training.

Berkeley Optometry intends for its graduates to become competent and compassionate optometrists who are capable of meeting all requirements for optometric licensure and entering residency training (post-graduate optometric education) if desired. The avowed intention of an individual student to practice only a narrow part of clinical optometry, or to pursue a non-clinical career, does not alter the requirement that all optometry students take and achieve competence in the full curriculum required by the faculty.

Berkeley Optometry has an ethical responsibility for the safety of the patients with whom students and graduates will come into contact. Although students learn and work under the supervision of the faculty, students interact directly with patients throughout their optometry school education. Patient safety and well-being are therefore major factors in establishing requirements involving the physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities of candidates for admission, promotion, and graduation.

Technical standards are applied in several broad catagories, including behavioral and social attributes; communication; intellectual-conceptual, integrative, and quantitative abilities; motor function; and observation. These abilities and characteristics, in conjunction with academic standards established by the faculty, are requirements for admission, promotion, and graduation in optometry.

Behavioral and Social Attributes

Candidates must demonstrate the maturity and emotional stability required for full use of their intellectual abilities. They must accept responsibility for learning, exercising good judgment, and promptly completing all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients. They must understand the legal and ethical aspects of the practice of optometry and function within both the law and ethical standards of the optometric profession. Candidates must be able to interact with patients, their families, and health care personnel in a courteous, professional, and respectful manner. They must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and long work hours, to function effectively under stress, and to display flexibility and adaptability to changing environments. Individuals who are currently impaired by alcohol or other substances are not suitable candidates for admission, promotion, or graduation. Candidates must be able to contribute to collaborative, constructive learning environments, accept constructive feedback from others, and take personal responsibility for making appropriate positive changes.


Candidates must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with patients, their families, and members of the vision health care team. They must be able to obtain a patient history in a timely fashion, interpret non-verbal aspects of communication, and establish therapeutic relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to record information accurately and clearly, and communicate effectively in English with other health care professionals in a variety of patient settings.

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative, and Quantitative Abilities

Candidates must have sufficient cognitive (mental) abilities and effective learning techniques to assimilate the detailed and complex information presented in the optometry curriculum. They must be able to learn through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to, classroom instruction, small group, team and collaborative activities, individual study, preparation and presentation of reports, and use of computer technology. Candidates must be able to memorize, measure, calculate, reason, analyze, synthesize, and transmit information across modalities. They must recognize and draw conclusions about three-dimensional spatial relationships and logical sequential relationships among events. They must be able to formulate and test hypotheses that enable effective and timely problem-solving in diagnosis and treatment of patients in a variety of clinical modalities.

Motor Function

Candidates must possess the capacity to perform the physical manipulations and diagnostic procedures that are part of a complete optometric examination. They must be able to respond to emergency situations in a timely manner and provide general and emergency care. Such activities require physical mobility, coordination of both gross and fine motor neuromuscular function, and balance and equilibrium. Candidates must be able to adhere to universal precaution measures and meet safety standards applicable to outpatient settings and other clinical activities.


Candidates must be able to observe and participate in vision science laboratory demonstrations and experiments, including but not limited to such things as observing demonstrations of and examining anatomical models and specimens, optical elements and systems, and visual displays and stimuli. Candidates also must be able to observe and participate in preclinical laboratories, including but not limited to such things as observing demonstrations of clinical equipment, instruments and procedures, and observation of laboratory partners. Candidates must be able to accurately observe patients and assess findings. They must be able to obtain a patient history and perform a complete optometric examination in order to integrate findings based on these observations and to develop an appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan. These skills require the functional use of vision, hearing, and touch.

Equal Access to the Educational Program

The University of California does not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities who apply for admission to the OD degree program or who are enrolled as optometry students. Otherwise qualified individuals shall not be excluded from admission or participation in Berkeley Optometry’s educational programs and activities solely by reason of their disability or medical condition. Berkeley Optometry is committed to providing reasonable accommodation in its academic programs to qualified individuals with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is one that does not require a fundamental alternation in the nature of the program or lower academic and/or clinical standards. Learning disabilities are included under this policy. Should a candidate have or develop a disability that poses a significant risk to the health and safety of patients, self, or others that cannot be eliminated with a reasonable accommodation, the candidate may be denied admission or may be recommended for dismissal from school. The process for a student to request an accommodation for a disability is to notify in writing the Associate Dean for Student Affairs of the accommodation requested, and to register with the Disabled Students Program (DSP) which will usually request that the student provide appropriate medical documentation of the disability-related functional limitations necessitating the accommodation requested. The Admissions and Student Affairs Office will coordinate with faculty members, the DSP and the campus administration in evaluating and responding to all requests for accommodations.

Accommodation of Religious Creed

In compliance with Education code, Section 92640 (a), it is the official policy of the University of California, Berkeley to permit any student to undergo a test or examination, without penalty, at a time when that activity would not violate the student’s religious creed, unless administering the examination at an alternative time would impose an undue hardship which could not reasonably have been avoided. Requests to accommodate a student’s religious creed by scheduling tests or examinations at alternative times shall be submitted directly to the faculty member responsible for administering the examination. The professional curriculum of the School of Optometry includes mandatory participation in courses, laboratories and clinics that are conducted in conjunction with a seven-day-a-week primary health care outpatient facility. Optometry students may occasionally may find themselves scheduled at times when the required activity conflicts with their religious creed. Requests to accommodate a student’s religious creed by adjusting his or her professional curriculum schedule shall be submitted directly to the faculty member(s) in charge of the course(s) involved, with a copy to the Associate Dean for Student Affairs. rev. 04/25/14 When they are providing vision care, optometry student interns must comply with applicable federal and state laws, and University policy, which prohibit them from discriminating among patients based upon their race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including sexual harassment), gender identity, pregnancy/childbirth and medical conditions related thereto, disability, age, medical condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran. When scheduling conflicts or issues related to providing care to all patients arise as a result of a student’s religious creed, reasonable common sense, judgment and the pursuit of mutual goodwill should result in the positive resolution of the conflicts. The regular departmental and campus appeals processes apply if a mutually satisfactory arrangement cannot be achieved.