Do volunteer exam coordinators provide accommodations for applicants with visual impairments?

I am a prospective HAM, and I recently began reading the ARRL's third edition of their Ham License Manual, published in 2014.

Anyhow, under

WHO CAN BE A HAM


They mention that there are ham operators who may have disabilities that might affect how they get licenced, or things like that, but also say that they can provide unique talents to the mixwith their experiences.

Being completely blind, I would like to know how to go about taking the first technician licence exam.Would they either provide it in Braille, where I orally announced the number, followed by the letter for multiple choice? Or, would the proctor have to read aloud both the question and answers, and then I would respond with the answer?

Yes, volunteer exam coordinators must provide accommodations for applicants with visual impairments. For the best experience, please contact the test team in advance so they can best prepare for your needs.

The FCC's Part 97 regulations which govern the amateur radio service in the USA (you'll learn more about these as you study) cover this in section 97.509, titled "Administering VE requirements":

(k) The administering VEs must accommodate an examinee whose physical disabilities require a special examination procedure. The administering VEs may require a physician's certification indicating the nature of the disability before determining which, if any, special procedures must be used.

So by law, any examiners volunteering under any of the VECs (ARRL, W5YI, Laurel, etc.) are required to accommodate a disability like blindness — and I trust you will find they are happy to help.

You can take a look at the ARRL VE manual for the guidance they give to their volunteers:

The accommodations may include administering the examination at a place and time convenient and comfortable to the examinee, even at bedside. Other procedures can include reading or writing for candidates who can't do so themselves.

Further down on page 50 of the PDF there is a section with specific suggestions for accommodating those who are visually impaired:

The major modification usually needed for testing the visually impaired is that the tests are given orally. Read the exam questions and multiple-choice selections to the candidate and then record the candidate's response on the answer sheet. Try to allow the candidate the same opportunity sighted people enjoy: process of elimination; reading the questions and remaining answers again; narrowing down the possibilities, skipping a question and returning later; and guessing. This will require a much longer time than most exams so plan accordingly. If you use someone other than a VE or trusted ham to be the reader, be sure the reader is familiar with the correct pronunciation of amateur radio terms.

The ARRL/VEC has a supply of written-element examinations written in Braille; check with the ARRL/VEC for availability. It is HANDI-HAMS’ experience that it is more efficient and effective to read the test to an applicant, rather than to arrange for the Braille materials, unless there are special circumstances that require it.

I'd encourage you to contact a local ham exam team and discuss with them directly ahead of when you would like to take it. They will appreciate the advance notice whether you'd like to join a regularly scheduled exam session, and/or can schedule a group of volunteers for a one-on-one session.

• Well, after eight long and dreary weeks of intense studying every day, all of my hard work finally paid off as I was examined by three VEs, and one of them narrated the questions and another wrote my responses. I didn't need a calculator, nor did I need my Braille writer like I thought I would. Of course I couldn't memorise all 423 questions, but at least I could infer from how they sounded. So, today, I now have my CFCE. I got 33/35 correct. – HeavenlyHarmony Mar 3 at 1:32
• Nicely done, and congrats! Now the waiting (for callsign) begins :-) – natevw - AF7TB Mar 3 at 5:04

Blind operators typically end up being highly skilled CW operators which are highly valued in ham clubs that do contesting and are greatly appreciated and frequently treated as a VIP. But as the hobby is largely reliant on listening and speaking, blind operators integrate well even without CW skills.

Testers do not typically have resources to accommodate blind participants, but if you contact the test group well in advance, they can get those resources. The ARRL VEC does have braille exams, but local sessions typically do not stock them unless they are requested in advance. The ARRL VEC manual recommends giving the exam orally, which would probably also have to be arranged in advance.