In an earlier question, there seemed to be some surprise when I (indirectly) asked about radio modes accessible to a blind operator.

First question: So how do blind hams operate?

If I were to be blind-folded, I could not operate any of my radios, HF or VHF, as I could not even tell if the rig was tuned to a proper legal frequency, as all the radio info is only output via LEDs or LCD displays. I can use a few iPhone apps blindfolded (I've actually written a couple iOS apps for just that use case); the macOS command-line Terminal is usable via VoiceOver; but all of my Mac and Linux SDR apps (and thus digital modes) would be completely unusable, AFAIK.

Second question: If one were to design radios or SDR applications or digital modes or an operating station targeted for vision impaired amateur radio operators, what would be a good set of requirements to optimize for that use case?

For instance: perhaps voice (or Morse Code?) readout for all "front panel" information displays, and some form of feedback for all radio control settings; connector ports that could all be identified by touch.

Any other necessary or beneficial requirements?

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    $\begingroup$ 3rd item for a perhaps another later question: Are there any legal U.S. or EU visual accessibility support requirements for radio related software or hardware sold to government agencies ? $\endgroup$ – hotpaw2 Nov 16 '19 at 15:29

I'll answer the first part of your question, Ronald.

I once witnessed a blind ham (WD8PIC) operate. His solid-state transceiver had a speech synthesizer that audibly spoke the frequency when the front-panel SPEECH button was pressed. What is more, he had everything on the front and back panels memorized.

It was simply amazing how much he was able to do for himself. I built him a custom crystal calibrator, and handed him the power plug. He had that plugged in and connected faster than I could. It did not have Braille on the rotary selector switch, but he quickly memorized its different positions before I left.

Many blind hams are helped to erect antennas and set up their station by other hams that can see, and he was no exception. There are also automatic antenna tuners, either built-in or external.

Although he lost his sight at an early age, he attended a school for the blind. They taught him how to do many things for himself.

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    $\begingroup$ I can't ask directly, as that might be interpreted as for a product recommendation here. But it would be interesting to know which transceiver maker just happened to be enlightened enough to include speech synthesis capability. $\endgroup$ – hotpaw2 Nov 16 '19 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @hotpaw2 IIRC, it was either an Icom IC-751A or an IC-765. The speech board was an optional item, and sold to blind hams at Icom's cost. Since then (~1980) there may be other manufacturers that offer that. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Nov 16 '19 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ Many rigs offer menus by speech synthesis. Some HF rigs also do it via morse code. It's actually fairly common. $\endgroup$ – user10489 Nov 16 '19 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ @hotpaw2 two of the Icoms that I own (both post-2000) have this feature built-in with no add-on required. $\endgroup$ – hobbs - KC2G Nov 18 '19 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ Here's an Icom IC-7300 reading off the selected frequency: youtu.be/UtArWOF-yho?t=126 $\endgroup$ – Caleb Jan 29 '20 at 22:09

There are accessories for some radios that provide a speech capability. Here is a link to a web site, HamRadioAndVision, that has some information.


Also keep in mind that a person can be legally blind but still have some sight. I believe that a person with 20/100 vision is considered to be blind. 20/100 sight means they see at 20 feet the same amount of detail that someone with normal vision sees at 100 feet. Often with magnify aids they can read dials and displays.

Also by using remote control software on a PC with a large monitor they can more easily see.

I cannot find a link, but I remember reading about some small QRP homebrew or kit CW radios that announced the frequency with Morse code as they were tuned.


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