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Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for
the week of Wednesday, 16 September 2015
This is a free weekly news & information update from the Courage Kenny
Handiham Program <https://handiham.org> , serving people with disabilities
in Amateur Radio since 1967.
Our contact information is at the end.
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Welcome to Handiham World.
In this edition:
. Special Report: Focus on accessibility.
. W0EQO refurb runs into a computer snag.
. SARA General course starts this month.
. Check into our nets!
. Dip in the Pool returns with a question from the Extra Class pool
about polar coordinates.
. New audio is available.
. ...And more!
What makes an HF radio accessible to blind operators?
Transceiver with braille book on top
Recently I received a message calling my attention to the
soon-to-be-released Icom IC-7300 HF transceiver. It had been sent by a
blind operator who was (to say the least) disappointed in what he considered
a lack of blind user accessibility. He explained that as a blind retired
electrical engineer, he had higher expectations from the manufacturer.
But what exactly does it take to make a radio accessible?
When I am asked about HF radios that are blind accessible, I have several
good candidates to recommend. Before I get to that, we should think about
what makes a radio easy to use. Here are several things that I look for:
* Speech frequency announcement feature.
* Direct frequency entry keypad arranged telephone-style.
* Knobs and buttons with tactile feel (not on an LCD screen).
* Controls that are large enough to use easily without activating more
than one at a time.
* Simple front panel layout.
* Coverage of 160 through 6 meter bands and general coverage.
* Data interface on back panel.
* Built in CW keyer.
In the "nice to have but not essential" category are a few more features:
. Front-firing speaker that makes it easier to hear the audio
. Internal antenna tuner
. Carrying handle for portable use
The first thing to do in an accessibility assessment is to find out whether
a radio's core functions can be controlled by a blind user. I usually
consider these to be basic stuff like changing the radio's frequency as you
move through a portion of a band listening for whatever you might hear,
getting speech frequency feedback for whatever frequency is displayed so
that you can confirm where you are before transmitting, eyes-free operation
of any antenna tuning function (if built-in), some method of direct
frequency entry that is tactile and built into the radio's interface, and
speech confirmation of mode along with a tactile control to change mode.
These functions are what I like to call "Field Day basics", because they are
pretty much the basic things you have to know about when you sit down in
front of an unfamiliar radio at your club's Field Day site. Most times at
Field Day the station will already be set up for a particular mode of
operation and if you know where the microphone or key (or keyboard) are and
how to tune the frequency you will be good to go. It is unlikely that you
will need to know a lot more about the radio's detailed functions, which may
be nested in multiple menus.
Okay, getting back to the new IC-7300, we have to remember that it is not
officially released yet and some features may change. Also, you should know
that I personally favor Icom gear in my own station, so take that into
account if you are inclined to be skeptical. With that in mind, the front
panel of the 7300 is nicely laid out and is centered on a color touch pad
display. Several basic controls are positioned to the left, right, and
bottom of the front panel. Unfortunately one of them is not a tactile,
telephone-style layout touch pad for direct frequency entry. There may be a
representation of the frequency keypad on the flat display screen, but that
will not be useful to a blind operator without some kind of audio feedback
from the screen - an unlikely possibility. On the plus side, the audio and
RF gain controls as well as the twin passband tuning controls are actual
knobs. A "speech" button for speech frequency readout is located in the
usual Icom spot, just to the lower left of the large main tuning knob. The
main tuning knob is easy to locate and use - it's in the lower right corner
of the front panel, making it easy to rest your right arm on the desktop
while tuning the radio. Although there is a mysterious "quick" button below
the touch screen, I'm not sure if it can be custom programmed for any
function the op might need. That would be a good thing, because I see no
tactile "mode" button. Presumably mode is changed via the touch screen. I
have no view of any included hand microphone, so I have no idea if there is
a tactile number pad on the mic.
The verdict? I'd have to agree with our blind engineer friend - the absence
of a tactile number pad for direct frequency entry and a tactile mode button
are pretty much deal-killers for blind accessibility. Of course it may be
possible to add an accessory microphone with a keypad, but even then it
seems to me that the touch screen would have functions that could not be
accessed by blind users. Software control is a possibility via a
screenreader enabled computer, but at this point we don't know what software
will be available or whether it will be accessible via screenreaders. Given
what we know at this early date, the IC-7300 would be a poor choice for a
blind operator. It may work for a low-vision operator because of the large
high-contrast frequency display, augmented by the built in speech frequency
With all of that in mind, I have several radios to recommend.
Icom IC-7200: Most affordable with excellent specs
IC-7200 and Bencher paddle for CW
A better alternative from Icom would be the IC-7200, which has both a direct
frequency entry keypad arranged telephone-style and a tactile mode button on
the front panel. I like this radio because it has all of the essential
features listed above as well as a front-firing speaker. The speech
frequency announcement hardware is built in, so every IC-7200 comes with it.
This is a radio that has an excellent, easy to memorize front panel layout
with a telephone-style direct frequency entry keypad. The "5" on the pad
has a raised bump for orientation. The data interface is a standard USB
jack, so all you need to connect the radio to a computer is an old USB
printer cable and the USB driver, available from Icom for free. The
receiver is great - I have two of these radios and have put them both on the
internet for others to use. It is also very solidly built and affordably
priced, but does not have a built-in antenna tuner. I solve this problem
with external LDG automatic tuners.
Kenwood TS590S or TS-590SG (newest model): Best for blind accessibility
TS-590S with external MFJ antenna tuner in place to match antenna that
internal tuner cannot.
This radio has all of the must-have features listed above plus an internal
antenna tuner. It has the same USB jack as the IC-7200, making it very easy
to connect to your computer. However, the VGS1 Voice Guide module is an
optional accessory that must be added in order for the speech frequency
announcement feature to work. Once added, this module allows for complete
accessibility through all of the radio's menu system and settings. The VGS1
module is the only hardware available on any Amateur radio transceiver that
allows for this depth of capability. If you need more than just speech
frequency announcements, consider a Kenwood radio that accepts the VGS1
module. When connected to your Windows PC, the TS-590S or SG can be
controlled by the screenreader friendly rig control ARCP-590 software
available free from Kenwood. This radio is the best choice for
accessibility, but it is the most expensive on this short list. The
optional VGS1 adds to the cost, and you should have it installed by the
dealer as the module is quite small and installation is tricky. A TS-590
manual in MP3 audio is available on the Active Elements website. In
addition, audio tutorials on how to actually use the radio are available
from the Handiham program at Handiham.org.
Kenwood TS-480SAT and TS-480HX: More affordable than the 590, but not as
TS-480HX with LDG autotuner
The Kenwood models TS-480SAT and TS-480HX are hard to tell apart when they
are placed side by side. The SAT model includes a built-in automatic antenna
tuner and a 100 watt transmitter. The TS-480HX does not have a built-in
antenna tuner, but it does have a 200 watt transmitter. The higher power
model requires two power supplies and has two power cables. Both radios
have the exact same form factor: A radio body that is separated from a
free-standing front panel control. The two parts of the radio are connected
with a cable. There is no way to join them into a single unit; they are
made to be a two part system. Both models accept the optional VGS1 Voice
Guide, but I can tell you from experience that they are hard to install. Be
sure that the installation is done by the dealer.
The front panel of the radio is compact, since it is intended for mobile
use. There is no room for a number pad, so that feature is on the included
The user experience is quite a bit different from that of the TS-590 series.
The compact front panel does not have many buttons, which means that each
button has multiple functions and, as explained, the numeric keypad as well
as some other buttons are on the microphone. With the VGS1 Voice Guide the
radio is accessible, but it is definitely not as easy to navigate as the
TS-590 series. Furthermore, because it is an older design, its receiver is
not as good as the much newer 590's. Of the two models, I would recommend
the 100 watt SAT over the 200 watt HX. The built-in antenna tuner is a more
valuable feature for most users and it does not require two power supplies.
As with the TS-590 series, the TS-480 series radios can be controlled by
free blind-accessible software available from the Kenwood website. The
software is called "ARCP-480". However, before you use the software, the
rig must be interfaced to your PC. That is more difficult with the 480
series because there is no standard USB jack. You will need to use the
older 9-pin serial cable for local control and either build or buy an
interface for the audio if you want to run the radio over the internet. If
you plan to use the ARCP-480 for multiple internet users, there is a
built-in limit of ten slots for registered users, making it a poor choice
for a club HF remote. The much newer ARCP-590 software accepts up to 100
The main things the TS-480 series radios have going for them is that they
are less expensive than the TS-590 series and they are more suitable for
mobile use. They are, however, the oldest design of any of the radios
listed here and that is reflected in less capable performance and somewhat
outdated interface features.
What should you choose?
For HF operation, the Kenwood TS-590 series is the clear choice if you can
afford it. Also very capable is the Icom IC-7200 with built-in speech
frequency announcements, but pick the Kenwood first if you need complete
voice access to menus. Remember that the VGS1 Voice Guide for the Kenwoods
is an optional extra.
Audio support in the form of tutorials is available for some of these
radios. The Handiham program has excellent tutorials on several of these
models that are taught by blind users. All of the radios listed here are
popular models with large user bases, which will make it easier for you to
find someone to help you, should you run into problems.
As for me, I'd love to get my hands on the new IC-7300, but I can see the
screen and that makes a big difference.
(For Handiham World, this is Pat Tice, WA0TDA.)
W0EQO refurb continues:
The W0EQO station is on the workbench for testing.
Image: The Kenwood TS-480SAT is on the workbench. Remember that W0EQO is
down for maintenance for an unspecified period. The rig control computer is
challenging - I'm going to try to locate a different one.
W0ZSW is back on the air part-time with the legacy W4MQ software, though we
are accepting no new users and have stopped distributing the software. We
are doing this to accommodate a few users who have no other way to get on
the air. PLEASE do not ask me for tech support on the station, as we have
ended all support.
The new software for our remotes will be the RCFORB client from
Remotehams.com. <http://www.remotehams.com> Although W0EQO is down right
now, you are welcome to connect to the WA0TDA IC-7200 via the RCFORB client.
The IC-7200 is on line most days from around 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM CDT. If you
would like to use it outside those hours, let me know.
Did you know that with the new RCFORB software, you can log on to and listen
to stations as they both receive and transmit? Furthermore, many of you can
be logged in at once, since multiple listeners are supported. This enables
you to listen to an HF net and hear everything, even when the station you
are connected to transmits! I checked into PICONET yesterday while on my
walk through the woods down to a nearby lake, using my Android smartphone.
A user who was connected to my station reported that he could hear both the
net control station and my transmission as I checked in. How cool is that?
It means that it will be much easier to get large groups of Handiham Club
members listening on a single HF frequency. There are lots of potential
uses for this feature, including helping newbies learn about HF, listening
on an emergency HF frequency during a practice or actual emergency, and
General Course - September 17th:
A FREE General License Class Starts THIS WEEK on Thursday, September 17,
2015: SARA, the Handiham-affiliated Stillwater Amateur Radio Association
<http://www.radioham.org/> , will once again conduct a fall General Class
licensing course. Technician level hams looking to expand their HF operating
capability are invited to join us for eight instructor-led sessions. The
classes are designed to help attendees successfully pass the General exam.
(Heck, it's also a great, easy way for any ham to brush-up on basic
theory!!) Most classes will be held Thursday evenings at the Stillwater MN
Public Library <http://stillwaterlibrary.org/> from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.
Although we encourage attendees to come to all class sessions, a combination
of class room and self-study has been successful for many. An ARRL sponsored
VE testing session will be held November 12. Do you know anyone interested
in upgrading to General?
According to Bob Jensen (W0GAF), SARA's Education and Training Director,
"Our instructors are well-versed and enjoy teaching Amateur Radio. I've
heard it said we can almost guarantee those who attend our sessions and
read/study a bit on their own, will pass the exam! I guess we can't make it
much easier than that."
(Note: Anyone interested in forming a study group for obtaining their Extra
Class license should contact Bob or one of SARA's officers.) Local (Twin
Cities area) Tech class licensees may contact WA0TDA by email for phone
Visit the Stillwater Amateur Radio Association website for more details.
Perhaps I will see you there, as I am one of the instructors.
What are you waiting for? Check into our Handiham nets... Everyone is
How to find the Handiham Net:
1. The Handiham EchoLink conference is 494492. Connect via your iPhone,
Android phone, PC, or on a connected simplex node or repeater system in your
2. WIRES-2 system number 1427
3. WIRES-X digital number 11165
The Handiham Net will be on the air daily. If there is no net control
station on any scheduled net day, we will have a roundtable on the air
Cartoon multicolored stickman family holding hands, one wheelchair user
Our daily Echolink net continues to operate for anyone and everyone who
wishes to participate at 11:00 hours CDT (Noon Eastern and 09:00 Pacific),
as well as Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 19:00 hours CDT (7 PM). If
you calculate GMT, the time difference is that GMT is five hours ahead of
Minnesota time during the summer.
Doug, N6NFF, poses a trivia question in the first half of the Wednesday
evening session, so check in early if you want to take a guess. The answer
to the trivia question is generally given shortly after the half-hour mark.
A big THANK YOU to all of our net control stations and to our Handiham Club
Net Manager, Michael, VE7KI.
A dip in the pool
Dip in the pool is back! Our question this week is from the Extra Class
question pool, number E5C02. It asks:
In polar coordinates, what is the impedance of a network consisting of a
100-ohm-reactance inductor, a 100-ohm-reactance capacitor, and a 100-ohm
resistor, all connected in series?
Possible answers are:
A. 100 ohms at an angle of 90 degrees
B. 10 ohms at an angle of 0 degrees
C. 10 ohms at an angle of 90 degrees
D. 100 ohms at an angle of 0 degrees
While you're thinking about which answer might be the right one, let's
remind ourselves that when working with reactances that there are four rules
to follow. These are:
1. Impedances in series add together.
2. Admittance is the reciprocal of impedance.
3. Admittances in parallel add together.
4. Inductive and capacitive reactances cancel each other out when they are
wired in series.
Did you decide which answer is the correct one? If you picked answer D, 100
ohms at an angle of 0 degrees, you got this one right. In this case we
didn't have to do any fancy math. All we had to do is remember rules 1 and
4. Since impedances add together AND capacitive cancels inductive AND both
reactance values are 100, you do mental math to subtract 100 from 100, then
all that is left is pure resistance with a value of 100 ohms. Although it
may be hard to picture in your mind if you are blind, typically these polar
coordinate maps are like a simple sheet of school graph paper with squares
on which you draw a vertical Y axis and a horizontal X axis with 0 being in
the exact center where the two axes meet. Any capacitive or inductive
reactance shows up along the Y axis, at some angle either below or above the
X axis. If the final impedance (in ohms) value in a circuit tends toward
inductive, the value will show up somewhere above the horizontal line of the
X axis. If that value is more capacitive, it shows up below the X axis. If
the angle is 0 degrees, as it will be if the reactances cancel each other
out, then the line will be flat along the horizontal X axis and run out as
far as the pure resistance value, which in this case is 100 ohms - at 0
degrees. Remember that impedance includes both pure resistance and
inductive and capacitive reactances, all of which are expressed in ohms.
A big part of passing exams like these is to know the basic electrical
concepts, which often means that you can pick out the answer rather quickly
without even touching your calculator!
New audio: The NLS cartridges for September have been sent out earlier this
week. We have new audio this week, too:
. CQ September 2015 has been recorded by Jim Perry, KJ3P - 58 MB
DAISY zip file. Find it in the members section.
. Joe, N3AIN, tells us how to install Windows without sighted help
by using a blind-accessible tool.
help.mp3> Anyone may follow this link and listen to or download the MP3
Other audio posted earlier:
* QCWA Journal for September has been recorded by Jim, KJ3P. It is
released when the official Journal for September is posted at QCWA.org, so
watch for it at QCWA.org. <http://www.qcwa.org/qcwa.php>
* The Doctor is In column from September QST has been recorded for our
blind members by Ken Padgitt, W9MJY, and is available in the members
* QST for September in digital has been recorded by Bob, N1BLF, and is
ready. We have it in DAISY for our blind members.
* ARRL General Class License Manual: Jim Perry, KJ3P, has finished the
first three chapters of the new ARRL General Class License manual, recorded
for our blind members. The audio is processed into DAISY for our General
Podcast: If you would like to receive this audio newsletter as a podcast in
software other than iTunes, the RSS feed for the audio podcast is:
Email version: <http://www.freelists.org/list/handiham-world> Subscribe or
change your subscription to the E-mail version here.
Weekly audio reminder: If you are a Handiham member and want a weekly
reminder about our new audio, let us know. Watch for new audio Thursday
afternoons. (Some audio is available only to members.)
Beginner course DAISY download available for our blind members: We now have
the DAISY version of the entire Technician Class lecture series on line for
Some of you have asked about the 2015 General Lecture Series. The new
General pool is used for exams beginning on July 1, 2015. If you are
planning to study for General at Radio Camp in August, you will take your
exam based on the new General question pool. Jim, KJ3P, is helping us with
recordings from the new 2015 ARRL General License Manual.
But you can start studying using the new pool right now! Bob Zeida, N1BLF,
has finished the recording of the new 2015 General Class Question Pool and
it is in the General Class section in the Members part of the website.
Jim, KJ3P, has recorded the DXer's Handbook Second Edition by Bryce, K7UA,
for our blind members. If you are a Handiham member and need a link to the
DAISY download, please let me know.
Thanks to our volunteer readers:
. You can pay your Handiham dues and certain other program fees on
line. Simply follow the link to our secure payment site, then enter your
information and submit the payment. It's easy and secure!
o Handiham annual membership dues are $12.00.
o If you want to donate to the Handiham Program, please use our donation
website. The instructions are at the following link:
DONATION LINK <http://www.handiham.org/drupal2/node/8>
o The weekly audio podcast <https://handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3> was
produced with the open-source audio editor Audacity
How to contact us
There are several ways to contact us.
Courage Kenny Handiham Program
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
E-Mail: <mailto:Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx> Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx
Preferred telephone: 1-612-775-2291
Toll-Free telephone: 1-866-HANDIHAM (1-866-426-3442)
Note: Mondays through Thursdays between 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM United States
Central Time are the best times to contact us.
You may also call Handiham Program Coordinator Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, at:
FAX: 612-262-6718 Be sure to put "Handihams" in the FAX address! We look
forward to hearing from you soon.
73, and I hope to hear you on the air soon!
For Handiham World, this is Pat Tice, WA0TDA.
ARRL is the premier organization supporting Amateur Radio worldwide. Please
contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to help you
fill out the paperwork!
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