In Memoriam: William F. Crandall, Jr.

The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute mourns the loss of our colleague and friend, Dr. William F. Crandall, Jr. Bill, as he was known, passed away over the weekend at his family home in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

Bill joined Smith-Kettlewell in 1973, while pursuing his Masters in Physiological Psychology through the University of Georgia. In 1981 he finished his PhD at Smith-Kettlewell through the University of the Pacific. During this time he was working in Ed Keller’s lab on studies of the oculomotor system. In the late 1980’s he became very interested in blindness and low vision, and in 1990 began working closely with investigators in the RERC at Smith-Kettlewell, developing his own line of research in human factors utilization of disability access technology. He received a grant from NIDILRR to study access to documents by blind people using fax technology – an early version of what is now called “telepresence” or tele-rehabilitation.

He then became involved in the Talking Signs project, soon taking the lead role in the associated research, development and evaluation of the system and its many offshoots and variants. This Remote Infrared Audible Signage (RIAS) system was the pioneering electronic navigation system for blind people and became installed and tested in many countries around the world. Bill conducted numerous evaluation studies of the technology and its applications, and worked actively with national and international technology transfer partners including Mitsubishi of Japan. He even built his own hardware to test new aspects and features of the RIAS system, which is the original model that will strongly impact  future designs for generations to come.

Aside from his research, Bill participated actively in many national and international bodies involved in setting standards for navigational technology. For example, he was a voting member of the US Delegation to the International Standards Organization ISO TC173, WG7. Committee on Assistive Products for Persons with Vision Impairments and Persons with Vision and Hearing Impairments ISO TC173/WG7. This Committee established the international standard for Tactile Walking Surface Indicators (TWSI) and Audible Pedestrian Signals (APS). He served on editorial boards such as the Open Rehabilitation Journal, and his international collaborations included membership of the International Center for Accessible Transportation (ICAT) of Montreal.

He worked long hours and was a fixture at Smith-Kettlewell for decades, contributing hugely to its collegial atmosphere and camaraderie in addition to his scientific efforts. In recent years he fought a valiant battle with Parkinson’s Disease and was an inspiring example to us all in uncomplainingly dealing with adversity while continuing to work on his goals of helping blind and visually impaired people.

Bill will be sorely missed not only by his past and recent colleagues at Smith-Kettlewell, but by the wider community of researchers, developers, teachers and rehabilitation professionals in the blindness world. He generously gave them his all, and the world is a better place because of his efforts.

For more information about Bill: