College of Education and Rehabilitation

Blindness and Low Vision Studies

William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center

The Feinbloom Center was established to continue the groundbreaking work of Dr. William Feinbloom, an optometric scientist in low vision and a pioneer in the field of contact lenses and vision rehabilitation for more than 50 years. Dr. Feinbloom, who received his Ph.D from Columbia University, used his extensive knowledge of physics, math, biophysics and visual psychology to invent many specialized magnification devices that are still in use today in the rehabilitation of individuals with visual impairment.

Some individuals are born with visual impairments, while others develop them later in life through disease or injury. Different conditions may affect an individual’s vision include macular degeneration; diabetic retinopathy; glaucoma; retinitis pigmentosa; optic atrophy; cataracts and albinism. All affected individuals have some vision; however, their visual conditions cannot be fully corrected through surgery, medication or conventional eyeglasses.

Vision Rehabilitation teaches individuals affected by visual impairments to fully utilize their remaining vision, resulting in greater independence and freedom. To assist individuals, the staff of the Feinbloom Center offers the following services:

  • Assessment of vision and eye health status
  • Evaluation and prescription of optical, non-optical and electronic devices
  • Individualized instruction in the use of devices, techniques to efficiently use remaining vision

The Feinbloom Center has been nationally and internationally recognized as a center of excellence in the field of low vision rehabilitation. The Center is staffed by a team of professionals who work together to address the needs of persons who have a visual impairment. The team approach includes the affected individual, family members, an optometrist and one or more optometric interns, a vision rehabilitation specialist and a social service staff member.  Other professionals such as an ophthalmologist, an orientation and mobility specialist, a rehabilitation teacher, an educator of the visually impaired and a technology specialist may be included as members of the team, depending upon the conditions and needs of the individual.

Daily living tasks quickly become impossible for someone with a visual impairment. The Feinbloom Center team prepares individuals to function independently and efficiently with the use of a variety of low vision devices and special techniques. Reading and writing, watching television, reading a blackboard or bus numbers, writing checks, doing laundry, threading needles, and dealing with stove and thermostat dials become tasks that once again can be accomplished. Individuals who need electronic devices for computers and televisions are given demonstrations and instruction in their use, and those with lighting needs are given help with contrast enhancers and special absorptive lenses.

Staff members of the Feinbloom Center also provide community based low vision programs.   Low vision rehabilitation services are provided to children at area schools and intermediate units, with a team consisting of a staff optometrist and social worker, traveling to these sites. After identifying the goals of the child, parents and educators, a comprehensive low vision evaluation is performed.  Recommendations for low vision magnification devices and other adaptive devices, adaptive technology, environmental modifications, rehabilitation services and educational media that are visually appropriate for the child are provided in a report that is disseminated to parents and educators.  Referrals for further evaluation of ocular and systemic health disorders identified during the evaluation are discussed with parents and educators.  Feinbloom staff also provides low vision rehabilitation services at a regional rehabilitation hospital.  Hospital inpatients with neurovisual disorders undergo a low vision/neurovisual rehabilitation evaluation and recommendations for rehabilitation are shared with the patient, family members and the hospital’s rehabilitation staff.

Additionally, the Feinbloom Center is associated with the Special Populations Assessment and Rehabilitation Center (SPARC). The SPARC program is a comprehensive evaluation of children with special needs. Such individuals would include those who have been unresponsive to conventional clinical testing as well as those who require additional testing beyond the scope of a standard vision evaluation.  Individuals with multiple impairments, non-communicative or hyperactive low vision children as well as infants and toddlers may benefit from this service. 

A SPARC evaluation process includes:  

  • Social worker who provides information about essential resources available to the individual and family members
  • Low vision and/or pediatric optometrists perform the visual evaluation
  • Clinical information gathered concerning: eye health; refractive error; visual skills; visual fields; response to lenses; optical devices, or different lighting conditions
  • Assessment of the individual’s use of visual skills conducted in various environments and situations
  • Observations made of travel skills and performance of academic (or academic readiness), recreational and/or vocational tasks
  • At evaluation completion, visual findings and recommendations are discussed with family members, care givers and rehabilitation professionals that accompany the individual to the evaluation
  • Recommendations may include spectacle corrections, low vision devices, environmental modifications, appropriate rehabilitative services that enhance the individual’s use of residual vision at home and in educational or vocational settings

The Feinbloom Center offers a monthly support group for older adults with visual impairments.  These individuals are often faced with many issues related to vision loss and the process of aging.  As a result, feelings of depression, anger, frustration and isolation are frequently experienced.  The support group was initiated in order to address these feelings and concerns by enabling participants to discuss concerns related to vision loss.  The social service department can also provide a list of similar support groups throughout the region.

Specialized services are offered when appropriate and include:

  • Electrodiagnostic testing
  • Ophthalmological consultations
  • Pediatric evaluations
  • Specialty contact lenses
  • Neuro-visual rehabilitation

The Feinbloom Center is a private, non-profit service. Fees vary according to the nature of the service performed and the devices prescribed and the Center operates on a fee-for-service basis, offering a sliding fee scale in cases of financial need.

William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center
The Eye Institute, Lower Level
1200 West Godfrey Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19141