Yaesu FT-2000 Accessibility Review

Accessibility evaluation of Yaesu FT 2000.

I have wanted to evaluate the FT2000 for some time. My good friend Rob G0WSC has been using the FT 2000 for about four years, and whilst Rob is sighted, it became obvious that once initially set up, the Menu seldom needed to be accessed again. In terms of accessibility, the main challenge for a blind operator using the FT 2000 is the lack of a voice synthesiser. Therefore, obtaining the frequency and mode information requires a connection between the radio and a PC. This evaluation is therefore slightly different from the ‘stand alone’ reviews I have conducted previously, as it is indeed possible to use an apparently inaccessible radio with no voice output, if a computer can be operated.

FT2000

YAESU FT2000

On paper, the FT2000 is an interesting radio. Even for a blind operator, it has certain features that make it worth investigating, even without speech output. I have had the FT2000 here on the bench for a couple of days only, and so this accessibility review can only really be my impressions on the radio, and I would encourage any blind amateur to do more research and check out my very superficial observations.

The radio is physically large, measuring 410 x 135 x 350 mm and weighing 15 kg. It covers 160m to 6m. I evaluated the 100W version, and there is also a 200W model. The version I tested has an internal PSU and the radio is plugged directly into the mains.

For its price point, I believe the FT2000 is currently the most inexpensive radio with separate receivers. The sub receiver must be on the same band as the main receiver, but it is possible to monitor different signals in each ear, using stereo headphones. As I have mentioned in previous evaluations, my usual operating practice is working DX, and this inevitably involves working on Split frequencies. I personally gain great benefit by listening to the DX station transmitting in my left ear, whilst I am looking for a pattern in his RX frequency range, listening with my right ear.

As previously mentioned, this radio will need to be initially setup using the menu system. There is a wealth of information available on the Internet, including e-mail user groups, and many people have published information on their personal Menu setup. It is almost inevitable that a blind operator will need sighted assistance for this initial phase.

I connected the FT2000 to my PC via the RS-232 CAT port, and used my logging program and screen reader to speak the frequency and mode. The physical connection was made using a standard serial cable, connecting to a USB adaptor plugged into the PC. I simply unplugged my usual radio and swapped cables. For some reason, I expected the FT2000 to need a special interface cable, but this was not the case. All this was very straightforward.

As the radio is physically large, my initial impression of the front panel was of an overwhelming mass of controls. There are lots and lots of buttons and knobs, But it doesn’t take long to start understanding the radio’s layout. The radio is turned on by using a button at the top left corner, and the VOX button is conveniently positioned here too. There is a line of buttons on the left hand side positioned horizontally below the display. This row contains the dedicated buttons for Monitor ,Processor, AGC, Noise Blanker, attenuator and filter functions. These buttons are long and thin, and have the same beep regardless of whether you are turning the function on or off. There are differently shaped buttons at the end of the row to select A and B receivers. Below these buttons are two horizontal rows of large knobs of the concentric inner and outer type. These contain RF Power , Mike Gain, VOX Delay, Manual Notch ,and the RF and AF gain for the Main and Sub receivers.

Below and running along the bottom edge, are 8 buttons for transmitting any pre-recorded voice and CW messages.

To the right of the knobs are two further columns of buttons. The first column contains buttons for choosing the mode, and I was pleased to find individual buttons for USB and LSB selection. To the right again is another column of buttons containing the Split, and the TXW button, allowing you to quickly hear the Sub receiver signals.

The main VFO tuning dial is to the right of the previously described controls, and approximately in the centre of the front panel. Each revolution of the VFO moves 10khz, but I would imagine this can be changed in the Menu.

To the right of the main VFO are more buttons for controlling the Main and Sub receivers, the main numeric keypad, the Sub receiver VFO, the Clarifier knob, and the filter adjustment knobs.

It soon became obvious, there is literally a button or a knob for every common function. For a blind operator this is terrific. There is seldom a need to enter the Menu system, but there are a lot of controls to remember!

A brief note on the buttons. All of the buttons are hard plastic, and not the rubber type that drag on the finger tips as you slide your fingers around the operating area. The long thin buttons running under the display on the left hand side are very easy to use, but I found some of the other buttons were quite tricky to orientate myself around, because of their unusual shape. These buttons are not flat, but the tops are tilted, and with a slight concave curve. The buttons are closer to the fascia at the top and thicken slightly at the bottom. In the case of the numeric keypad, the buttons are quite noticeably concave, with the button being thicker at the top and bottom, and being recessed across the middle. This actually makes tactile manipulation more awkward. As you move your hands over the keypad, instead of feeling a block of 12 flat buttons, instead, you have lots of peaks and troughs to negotiate. Until you get totally familiar with the keypad, it is easy to mistake the space between the buttons, as a button itself. There was no tactile pip on the 5.

The keypad uses the Triple Stacking method for band changes, meaning, pressing the number three will cycle you through three different stored frequencies on 40m.

Direct keypad entry of a frequency was straightforward.

I have very little experience of using Yaesu radios, and this is mainly due to the range generally lacking a voice synthesiser. I was therefore new to some of the concepts on the FT2000. For instance, when you are tuning for 0 beat on a CW signal, the Yaesu will give you a visual indication to show you are on the exact frequency, and fortunately, there is also an audio indication. A button press will produce a 700 Hz tone, allowing you to tune, and match the incoming signal to the generated tone.

A maximum power limit can be set when tuning. This works for both the internal and an external ATU. Limiting the tuning power to 20 watts while keeping the TX power at 100 watts is very useful.

Having established the FT 2000 was relatively easy to use, I wanted to make sure I could easily use the split facility and the sub receiver. With a radio of this complexity there are several ways of being able to work split. Sighted operators may well find they never need to use the split function at all, as the Clarifier itself allows an adjustment over 10 kHz! But, from my own personal experience, I like to be able to put in a definite frequency, so I don’t need to keep checking the voice output.

If you are wearing stereo headphones, in the standard set up, you will hear the main receiver in both years. If you press the TXW button, you will hear the sub receiver in both years. A menu setting allows you to hear both receivers at once, the main receiver in your left ear, and the sub receiver in your right ear. As the menu is inaccessible, I am assured the ‘Dual Watch’ function can be assigned to the programmable CS button. I did not actually try assigning the CS button on this borrowed radio, so this is something to make sure of yourself.

If you want to set the split very rapidly, there is a single button option to set the split to a 5khz high shift. This default can be adjusted. But, I think the most straightforward way of setting the Split frequency at say 3kHz up, is to press A=B, to make the Sub receiver equal the Main. Then press A/B and press the microphone Up button three times, this sets the frequency on the Sub receiver. Then press A/B again to return to the Main, and finally the Split button. You are now ready for Split operation with a shift of three kHz.

A press of the TXW button gives a double beep if Split is on, and the Split frequency was immediately shown on the PC. The signal on the sub receiver is heard.

In summary, the FT2000 can be satisfactorily used by a blind operator, but for independent operation needs to be connected to a PC via CAT. Every common function has a dedicated button or knob, meaning the inaccessible menu is not required in daily use.

Related Downloads

None

Baofeng UV-5R Accessibility Review

Baofeng UV-5R Review

By Ian Spencer DJ0HF/G3ULO

December 2012

This is a review of the Baofeng UV-5R dual band 2 metre/70 Centimetre hand-held transceiver. I suppose I should start by saying what motivated me to buy one, well it was simply the price. Most dual band Hand-Helds are in the 100 pound plus range and the cheaper Woxoun around 85 pounds or so, and this new Baofeng was only 32 pounds here in Germany including postage and if ordered directly from China I have seen it as cheap as 28 pounds almost a third of the price of the nearest competitor.

And although I’m not a VI operator myself I felt that this Hand-Held might be suitable for someone with a visual impairment as it does have some voice announcement features and so I will try to test this by operating the radio with my eyes closed in the hope of getting some idea of whether it really would be suitable or not.

I didn’t expect much for 30 odd pounds especially these days where a simple desk mike often costs a hundred pounds or more and so when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised. It came in a small square carton and on opening it I was presented with a very neat hand-held which didn’t look in the least bit cheap and certainly seemed externally to be up to the build standard of my other more expensive radios. The box contained the Handy plus a 1800maH Li-ion Battery pack, a belt clip, a wrist strap and an extra earpiece for silent listening and a drop in battery charger, this is nice as you can drop the whole Handy into it for charging and don’t have to remove the battery pack or use a fiddly cable to connect the charger. There was also a rather basic instruction book to round off the contents.

The main case of the handy is black (though other colours are available) and on the top you find the socket for the rubber duck antenna and a volume control which includes the on/off switch and a white bright emitter LED which allows the Handy to be used as a torch and which in practice is surprisingly bright. The antenna socket is a reverse SMA (male) type and so if you want to connect another antenna perhaps with a BNC connector then you will need an adapter, though these are readily available for a few pounds on Ebay.

The front is divided into 3 areas and at the top is an LCD Display and below that is the speaker and to the left of the speaker are two important buttons which I’ll discuss in a minute and a small green LED which lights when a signal is being received. In the bottom third are the 4 rows of 4 buttons for menu functions and entering numeric information. All of the buttons are quite a good size and raised above the surface of the Handy and have a very positive click when pressed, so that once I had familiarised myself with the layout I found no problem locating the ones I wanted and operating them even with my eyes closed. On the right hand side is a flip open cover which reveals two sockets, a 3.5mm and a 2.5mm stereo socket into which you can plug the accessory earpiece or a combined microphone/speaker. These two sockets are also used for the programming cable to connect the Hand-held to a PC for programming.

The Li-ion battery clicks firmly into the back of the transceiver and the belt clip is attached by two screws if it is required.. Rotating the volume control turns it on with a click and a voice announces `Frequency Mode’ and the LCD display lights up in Violet with a welcome message for a couple of seconds.

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The unit has two basic modes of operation `Frequency Mode’ where two VFO frequencies are displayed on the screen and you can switch between them with a small blue A/B button. Or `Channel Mode’ which uses the 128 memory channels and is selected by a quick press of the orange coloured VFO/MR button. Both the VFO/MR button and the A/B button are placed well away from the other buttons being in the middle section of the Hand-held to the left of the Speaker. On the left side of the radio are three buttons , at the top an orange button which when pressed selects the FM radio for listening to stations in the 76 to 108Mhz broadcast band or it can be switched to the 65-75Mhz band by a quick press of the band button (to the right and just below the speaker). Pressing the orange button a second time turns the FM radio off. In the middle is a larger `PTT’ button and below that a `Moni’ button which is pressed once turns on the LED torchlight, if pressed a second time the LED blinks as an alarm and if you hold it pressed the squelch is switched off, the LCD display turns blue and you hear the usual loud hiss of an un-squelched VHF FM Receiver.

In `Frequency Mode’ I typed in 145500 on the keypad and each key was announced as I pressed it as `one’, `four’,’five’ etc. I was then listening on 145.500Mhz. I pressed the PTT button and the display turned orange and I had a quick contact with a local amateur. Using the standard 4 Watts, though low power 1 Watt is also available. He said it sounded fine though the modulation sounded a little quiet. This seems to be one of the only weaknesses of the Baofeng, you do need to speak very closely to the microphone, it’s said this deliberate as when the Baofeng is used in a commercial environment (for which is was first designed) then they didn’t want a lot of background noise being transmitted if the environment was noisy. I then punched in a 70cm frequency and repeated the test with no problems at all. Later I tested it on 2M and 70cm Repeaters and it worked fine on both bands. If while transmitting you press the band button then it transmits a 1750Hz tone to open a repeater. Though you can also program CTCSS or DCS tones which are required by a lot of repeaters these days. And there we come to a bit of fly in the ointment for all users and especially if you are a VI user. Programming the Baofeng from the keypad is possible but not particularly easy. There are several videos on `You-Tube’ on how to do it but not really practical for a VI user.

Whether you are visually impaired or not, obtaining the programming cable and free software from Baofeng is a must. This makes programming the 128 Memory channels and setting other features a breeze. Here in Germany I paid around 8 pounds for the programming cable but these seem a little more expensive in the UK. Though they won’t break the bank.

I had no problem programming the Baofeng with the standard software and cable. I could do it on both my Windows 7 Professional and Windows XP Professional computers perfectly. Even though the seller had said in his advert that the cable was only for XP. That said there have been a number of items on the internet saying that people had problems with Windows 7. This seems to be down to the version of the Prolific USB driver that windows 7 loads when you plug in the cable. However I have the latest version on my Windows 7 machine and it worked perfectly, this may not be the case with some versions of the driver and you may need to install a compatible version. The free software from Baofeng works pretty well but it’s not particularly sophisticated. There seem to be a number of different versions of the software and a number of versions of the firmware in the Handy. The older models have Firmware BFB28x, the newer BFB29x and there seem to be some differences. On the website I found a version of the programming software with NEW_OLD in the name which I suspect works with all versions but has a couple of unfortunate features.

When it starts there are lots of question marks on the screen because it starts in `Chinese’ and you have to go to top menu bar and select the second item from the right to switch to English.

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Then everything magically appears in English. The only other minor problem with this software version is that in the menu bar it doesn’t have the `OTHER’ option which allows you to change the welcome message on the Handy to for example `Your Call-sign’. I think this is missing because this feature is only available on devices with the newer BFB29x firmware. As mine has the newer firmware I used another version of the software from June of this year with the name UV_5R_VIP which does have the `OTHER’ option in the menu and allowed me to change the Welcome message to `DJ0HF’.

The radio is pre-loaded with a lot of channels and you can select `Read from Radio’ to download them into the program and then delete or modify them as you wish. The only unusual feature is that you don’t enter a repeater offset but instead enter not only the receive frequency but also the transmit. So for example as receive you might enter 145.600Mhz and the program automatically displays the transmit frequency as 145.600 as well and you have to change it to 145.000 to get the 600Khz offset. Unusual but not a big problem. Once you have entered all of the simplex and repeater channels you want then you simply click on `Write to Radio’ to upload the data and that’s it. As I said the Software isn’t very sophisticated and so after it tells you it has finished reading or writing the data you actually have to click `Cancel’ to get back to the main screen rather than it going back to the main screen automatically. Sometimes I noticed that the first time I said Read or Write it gave and error but after clicking it away then the second attempt always worked without problem for me. Very important is to know on which `COMM’ port the Prolific USB cable has been configured. It usually ends up on COMM3 but this many not be true, depending on how many COMM ports your computer already has. Some versions of the software automatically see the correct port and select it others you have to choose the `Communication’ option in the menu and click the required COMM port. If you have the wrong port selected then nothing will happen and you will not be able to read or write anything over the cable to the radio.

There is another software package called `CHIRP’ which can be used to program many different types of radio but it warns that it is experimental with the Baofeng, so I tried it in read mode and it read the data from the radio without any problem but I didn’t try writing anything back to the radio in case I `Bricked’ the radio and made it useless. Anyway I find the Baofeng software easy to use and so don’t have any real reason to use CHIRP.

So if you are a VI user could you use the radio. Well assuming you can get someone to help with the programming of the channels or have a very good screen reader which will work with the software, then I think yes.

In `Frequency Mode’ (which is announced) you only have to punch the frequency and all of the keys will be announced and that’s it. You can work simplex on the channel you punched in very easily. Pressing the VFO/Memory button will announce `Channel Mode’ and each time you press the UP or Down arrow the channel will step up or down one memory channel and the new channel number is announced. So as long as you remember your favourite simplex or local repeater channel numbers then there shouldn’t be any great difficulty in finding the channel you want and using the radio.

This review is already getting very long so I don’t want to go into all of the menu items here in detail (there are 40 of them). You can program any of the facilities from the software or by pressing the `Menu’ button and then a two digit menu number. Pressing `Menu’ again allows you to change the value of the item and in some cases announces the name of the menu item selected. After setting the required value pressing `Menu’ again, announces `Confirmed’ and pressing `Exit’ takes you out of the menus.

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If you are in `Channel Mode’ then pressing and holding the scan button, starts the radio scanning through all of the memory channels and the start of the scan is announced so if you are a VI user you know the scan has started. You can stop the scan by simply hitting the `Exit’ button. In the menu’s it’s possible to select to stay on the active channel until the carrier drops and then continue scanning, to stay on the active channel for a few seconds and then if `Exit’ isn’t pressed continue scanning or to exit scanning mode completely once an active channel has been found and remain on that channel.

As I say there are so many menu options that I can’t list them all here but for example you can set the squelch level (though I have never had to alter it). Select different colours for the display for Receive, Transmit etc. Set the step size, for example 12.5Khz or 25Khz etc. Turn on VOX operation if you don’t want to use the PTT. Set dual channel watch which allows two VFO frequencies to be monitored, the radio skipping back and forth between them until one of them becomes active. Or you can do the same with 2 Memory channels. Interesting is that if you are listening to FM Broadcast radio and one of the channels becomes active then the broadcast is muted until the activity on the channel ends and then it switches the broadcast receiver back on again. You can of course set CTCSS tones and interestingly you can set them for both transmit and receive. Normally for a repeater you would only set transmit CTCSS so that when you transmit it includes the tone but on receive you don’t need it. But if you set it for receive too then if you are talking from one baofeng to another in simplex or with a group of radio’s the receiver will only open if it hears the CTCSS tone from the other baofeng and ignore any other transmissions on the frequency. You can program a roger beep and lock the keyboard and lots of other things but I think you get the idea.

So is it an all singing all dancing Handy for the VI user, well most certainly not. But could a VI user operate the normal day to day functions of the radio in simplex or on a repeater (once the channels have been set up) I think the answer would be a most definite `yes’.

Comments

Ian DJ0HF has confirmed the following:
1 The frequency will not be read on demand. The frequency numbers are only spoken when entered.
2 The firmware appears to be very similar to the Wouxun KG-UVD1P, but the menu numbering is slightly different. I’m sorry to say that although the menu’s are very, very similar they do not have the same numbers. So for example on the Wouxon, you press ‘Function’ (which is Menu on the Baofeng) then 4 to go to the power Menu, on the Baofeng it’s Menu then ‘2’ then when you press ‘Menu’ again, like the Wouxon it announces ‘Power’ and you can use either the up or down buttons to cycle between high and low power. Like the Wouxon you can also use the one and zero buttons to set the power but unlike the Wouxon the one sets low power and the zero high power. I have recorded chapter 12 of the manual, describing the menu numbering. It is in the Related Downloads section below.
3 I tried to see if I could insert the Handy into the charger without it fully contacting the charger tabs but I really couldn’t. If I hadn’t inserted it properly I could twist the Handy clockwise and anticlockwise, if I had it fully inserted I couldn’t twist it. 4 The Wouxon review said that the Wouxon only gave about 2 seconds to enter a change after selecting a menu item before exiting the menu and returning to the normal mode. My Baofeng gives you about 8 seconds before it does this.
5 Unlike the Wouxon there is no rotary control on the top for changing frequency/memory channel or menu item. There are just the up and down keys and the numeric keyboard.

Peter MM5PSL comments:
Kelvin, You mentioned the problem of a slack charger on the Wouxun review. The Baofeng has a similar problem. The charger opening for the radio is too big and there’s quite a gap around the sides. The answer is knowing how to insert the radio. Unless by accident, only a sighted person would notice how it slots in. The radio has to be inserted with the back of the radio against the back of the opening and it slots in snugly. If it is too far forward it misses the guides on each side

Related Downloads

Baofeng UV-5R MP3 Tutorial by KA9OPL (opens a new page on Joe’s own site)
Baofeng UV-5R Chapter 12, Menu Numbering MP3
Baofeng UV-5R Tips and Hints for Eyes Free Operation by Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV
Baofeng UV-5R MP3 Review
Baofeng UV-5R OCR conversion of original PDF Manual

Icom IC-7200 Accessibility Review

A picture of the Icom IC-7200.  The display is reading 7.072.  This model has the carry handles attached.
Accessibility Evaluation of Icom IC-7200

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

December 2010

Several of our blind members have shown interest in the IC-7200. It is priced competitively as a mid-range HF base station, and is compact enough for mobile or field day use. The radio is marketed as being ‘rugged’, and my first impressions were of a compact and solid radio. Icom UK were kind enough to loan me the evaluation radio, and it was fitted with the optional carrying handles mounted on the corners of the front panel. These add to the go anywhere feel of the radio, and give a degree of protection to the knobs and dials on the facia.

The IC-7200 is a HF and 6M transceiver. It has one SO239 socket at the rear, and has CAT via USB to link to a PC. Maximum power is 100 watts, with a Tuner button allowing seamless operation with an optional external ATU.

In common with most modern Icom amateur radios, the IC-7200 has a voice chip fitted as standard. The voice chip reads Signal Strength, Frequency, and Mode when the Voice button is pressed. The menu system does not speak, but adjustments can be made to the voice synthesizer, such as changing volume. I immediately turned on the menu setting to make the Mode button speak, but I needed sighted help to navigate the menu. I was pleased to find the radio gave an audio indication when band edges were found, and this was the default setting.

The front panel of the IC-7200 is uncluttered, and initially seems to have too few buttons and knobs. To the left of the VFO are dedicated controls for adjusting Band Pass filtering. A nice touch on the smaller Icom radios, allowing easy band shape changes without the need to access multi-level menus. The AF volume, RF gain, and Squelch are adjusted with the traditional inner and outer knobs. There is the Mic input, Headphone socket, Power on and off, and a shared button for Voice and Frequency Lock. The only other buttons to the left of the VFO are a block of four, controlling Mode, Band Width, Tuner, and Tuning Steps.

As previously mentioned, I engaged the menu setting allowing the Mode to be spoken when changed.

The Band Width button cycles through three previously defined widths, and is a nice feature also found on the more expensive Icoms.

I chose the 1 KHz Tuning Steps for the fast tuning button. This meant in normal use, one revolution of the VFO moved smoothly through about 1.5 KHz. When fast tuning was turned on, the tuning dial moved about 130 KHz per revolution. The microphone buttons allowed me to move easily to a round frequency, and subsequently by 1 KHz steps when in fast tuning mode. The Mic buttons moved by 50 Hz steps when in normal tuning mode.

To the right of the VFO is the numeric Keypad, with just above the keypad, three buttons controlling Noise Reduction, Noise Blanker, and Auto Notch. Below the Keypad are two further buttons for Attenuate/Pre-amp and Menu. There is a rotary outer knob controlling the Manual Notch and a Multi-purpose ‘ratchet’ inner knob for various uses, including scrolling through the menu.

I’ll go on to describe how Icom have very cleverly utilised so few controls, but there are two areas I feel could have been improved to make life easier for a blind operator. First, is the positioning of the Voice button. This is situated on the front panel and fairly close to the main VFO. It is at about 8 o’clock in relation to the main Tuning Dial. As the Tuning Dial sits almost flush to the front panel, it is very easy to accidentally touch, when attempting to check the frequency. Some of the other buttons are also close to the VFO, but I feel the very frequently pressed Voice button should be placed further away from the Tuning Dial. Somewhat compounding the problem , the frequency Lock is shared with the Voice button.

My second grumble with the layout, is the lack of separation around the numeric keypad. The three buttons for Noise Reduction, Noise Blanker, and Auto Notch are positioned above the 1, 2, and 3, of the numeric keypad. While they are slightly narrower and slightly offset, it would be more intuitive to have a separation of some kind. There is no pip on the 5 key, and I found myself locating the Enter key, bottom right, and counting buttons on the keypad from this known point. Not a major problem, but an area of the radio a blind operator will inevitably have to navigate many thousands of times over the course of its working life.

I was very interested to learn how Icom had implemented the use of very frequently used functions in the IC-7200. There didn’t seem to be enough dedicated controls, and I initially feared the menu would have to be used for even basic changes.

With the IC-7200, Icom have changed the notion of the numeric keypad being used as a three level stacking system for the bands. For example, on many other Icoms, pressing the 7 key would take you to the 15M band, where subsequent presses of the 7 key would cycle through 3 different frequencies and modes on 15M. The IC-7200 departs from this, and uses the numeric keys to control other functions. You can still get to a band directly by using a long press on the Enter key, followed by a number, but a momentary press of a number key will now control other functions.

For instance, press ‘7’ to turn compression on and off. Each press gives a beep, but unfortunately the beep tone does not differ to indicate on or off. In the case of compression, I would normally be looking for the Monitor button, so I could hear the changes through my headphones, indicating on or off. With the IC-7200, I was very pleased to find I could always reliably turn a function on by entering its set-up mode.

If the ‘7’ key is held in for about a second, the compression set-up mode is entered. You will hear a short beep followed by the longer beep, to let you know you’re in compression set-up mode. Now, this is the good part, because as I’ve mentioned, entering set-up mode, always turns the function on regardless of its previous state.

So, to guarantee Compression is turned on or off:

1. Hold the ‘7’ key until you hear a short and a longer beep. You are now in compression set-up mode, with Compression automatically turned on.

2. Momentarily press the ‘7’ key again. You’ll hear a short beep, and you’ll be back in normal operating mode, with compression still turned on.

3. Momentarily press ‘7’ again. You will hear another short beep and compression will be toggled off.

If you are sighted, and wondering what all the fuss is about. I can guarantee that some way down the line, a blind operator will forget if an option is on or off. Being able to determine this independently is crucial !

Fortunately this useful convention applies to almost every function controlled by numbers on the Keypad, and also the Noise Reduction and Noise Blanker. Hold the appropriate button in for a second, and then press again momentarily to guarantee always turning the function on.

If we actually want to change a function’s setting, simply hold the key until set-up mode is entered. Adjustments are then made by rotating the Tuning Dial. I found that one complete revolution equated to a setting of about 60%.

So, to change the Noise Reduction:

1. Hold the Noise Reduction button for a second, you will hear a short and longer beep and be in set-up mode.

2. Turn the Tuning Dial, and you will hear the decrease in noise levels.

3. Once you have found the best level for the QSO, press the button again, and you will return to normal operating mode, and know that Noise Reduction is turned on.

I found Split operating to be easy and intuitive to use. The ‘2’ on the Keypad, toggles between VFO A and VFO B. ‘3’ on the Keypad turns Split on and off, with a longer press operating A = B, and following the convention it automatically turns the function on. Once the XFC function has been enabled in the menu system, the RIT key will allow you to listen to your transmit frequency when held down. This can also be used to establish if Split is turned on.

Memory usage is not so straightforward. In theory, it is possible to use it successfully, but there seemed to be no way of easily getting to a Memory Chanel using the Keypad. I could only find a channel by turning the Multi purpose knob, and the channel number was only shown on the display, not spoken. If I wanted to access memory 44, I feel it would be essential the system either spoke the channel, or allowed me to enter ‘44’ on the Keypad.

I found output Power adjustment to be relatively easy. You hold the Menu button for about a second and hear a beep. Incidentally, holding it for a further second, would put you into the full Menu. So, holding until just the first beep is heard, puts you into a mini Menu with three options shown. These are Power, Mic Gain, and Data. You cycle through these options using the Multi-purpose knob. Very usefully, the Power option always beeps, so you know where you are in the mini menu. Adjustment to the Power is then made using the Tuning Dial.

So, the process for changing output Power is:

1. Press and hold the Menu button. A long beep is heard.

2. Turn the Multi-purpose knob until a beep is heard. You are now on the Power setting.

3. Turn the Tuning Dial. One revolution is about 60%. Turning clockwise several turns will get you to the 100 watts position, and additional clockwise turning has no effect.

A similar mini menu structure is used to adjust the various VOX parameters. Again, it is possible to make all the necessary adjustments independently, if you remember the fairly simple sequence, and can estimate the levels when turning the Tuning Dial.

In summary , the IC-7200 will voice the Frequency, Mode, and RX Signal Strength. This obviously limits menu access, but I found it was not necessary to visit the menu other than for initial set-up. There are minor issues with layout, and I think storing and retrieving frequencies in the Memory Channels would be a challenge for a blind user. Apart from these limitations, I found the IC-7200 to be very accessible. A blind operator will have to remember the layout and location of buttons, as they are not spoken, but frequently used functions are easy enough to use, and I was impressed with the keypad implementation.

Related Downloads

None

Kenwood TM-V71E Accessibility Review

Image of TMV71E with detached head and microphone on top of radio.
Accessibility Review of TM-V71E

By David Murphy 2M0TSR

This download is for an audio review of the Kenwood dual band FM radio the TM-V71E. You can hear the voice chip of the radio in action along with a review of its capabilities.

Related Downloads

Kenwood TM-V71E MP3 Audio Review by David 2M0TSR
TM-V71E Full MP3 Manual (Please Right click and Save Target As:
Rob K6DQ has prepared a fully accessible HTML manual, and related files
Kenwood TM-V71E full HTML Manual (This is a truely excellent web page with indexed links to the text and descriptions of the user manual)
Kenwood TM-V71E HTML Menus
Kenwood TM-V71E TXT Microphone Keypad Description
Kenwood TM-V71E TXT Front Panel Description
Handihams have the following files and audio tutorials in their Manuals section:
tmv71_layout.mp3
tmv71a.mp3
tmv71a_brochure.txt

Wouxun KG-UVD1P Accessibility Review

The Wouxun KG-UVD1P talking dualbander. This photo shows the radio tuned to 145.05 and 439.700
Screen grab of Wouxun PC control software.
Accessibility review of Wouxun KG-UVD1P

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

November 2010

The introduction of the Wouxun dual band 2M and 70cm handhelds has caused quite a stir in amateur circles. It has been favourably reviewed in RadCom and Practical Wireless, and a comprehensive set of features aligned with a price tag of under £90, make it very attractive. Of particular interest to blind users, is the inclusion of voice prompts as a standard component.

I was asked to review the handheld in August 2010, but due to high demand we had some trouble sourcing one. The radio I reviewed came from Moonraker.

Initial observations on opening the box, were of a well made, good quality handheld. I had some help attaching the belt clip and the wrist strap, but the battery pack fitted intuitively and clipped snugly into the body. The radio needed an initial over night charge, and here I ran into a problem. Whilst the radio has a nice ‘intelligent’ charging stand, it is possible to push the radio very firmly into the stand, but actually miss the contact points. There is no obvious way for a blind person to know if it is charging or not. A sighted person can see the LED on the stand, but there is no other indication, until you grab it the next morning, and find it has not charged. I’m not alone in noticing this problem, as at least one other member has encountered the same issue.

I’ve found two methods of making sure I am charging the Wouxun, and I think it might help others by mentioning them here. Firstly, the LED on the charging stand can be monitored using an audio Light-probe. These are readily available from RNIB. The second method is a trick I use to make sure my electric shaver is pushed securely into its charging stand. I use an old transistor radio, tuned to a clear Long-wave frequency, and listen for interference when contact is made. Using this method meant I could adjust the Wouxun, until I could ‘hear’ it was charging.

My experience of using VHF and UHF is limited, and I had never independently used a handheld before. My initial thoughts were that the Wouxun was very tactile and well laid out with good sized buttons. The radio spoke when I turned it on, and the numbers were read back as I entered a frequency, all good so far. I was very pleased to find the radio always returned to a known position when switched on. If you get ‘lost’, simply turn off and on, and you are back in VHF mode.

At this early stage, I discovered the most obvious limitation of the radio when being used by a blind person. It is its inability for the voice to read the frequency on the display. This is not necessarily a huge problem if you are using repeaters or you are going directly to a simplex frequency, but if you are using the rotary tuning knob, and you find a busy frequency, the radio cannot tell you where you have landed.

Apart from the seemingly obvious omission of a frequency voiced readout, I initially struggled to grasp the concept of programming the Wouxun. A sighted user will almost certainly cycle through the menu system with the rotary tuning knob, and then choose an option with the arrow keys. There appeared to be a way of using menu numbers to access these directly, but I found there was no time to think about what I was doing, before the radio automatically left the menu and returned to its operating state. Fortunately, Quentin GW3BV, our Chairman, came to the rescue when we were at Newark. He found a superb document for using the Wouxun ‘eyes free’, written by Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV I. It describes the layout of the Wouxun , and most importantly describes how the radio can be successfully programmed. I recommend this guide as essential for any blind user.

A good example of using the menu system by numbers, is to change the radio’s power. The Function key is pressed, followed by ‘4’, Function again, and then instead of using the arrow keys, ‘0’ can be pressed for low and ‘1’ for high power. The final step is to press Function again. In this example, menu ‘4’ accesses the Power menu, 0 or 1 select either low or high.

This is where the radio’s voice prompts really shine. Turn on the Wouxun and it will say ‘Channel Mode’ or ‘Frequency Mode’. To change a menu setting, we switch to ‘Frequency Mode’.

To change the power, we get the following audio prompts:

1 Press Function – FUNCTION SELECT, is spoken.

2. Press ‘4’ – BEEP.

3. Press Function – POWER SELECT, is spoken.

4. Press ‘1’ – BEEP.

5. Press Function – ENTER, is spoken.

Not all menu options are spoken as with the ‘Power’, but programming is fairly straightforward, if you can remember the menu numbers. I say ‘fairly’ straightforward, because this leads me to another limitation of the Wouxun, that could be improved for all users. I’ve previously mentioned, the radio returns to its standard operating state, if you are not quick enough when changing a menu setting. I estimate the time is set at about 2 seconds. I found this to be hugely frustrating for one of our senior members, when I was explaining how to use the menu. I found I barely had time to give the next command before we heard the quiet ‘triple beep’, indicating we would have to start again. In my opinion, the menu time-out should be listed as an adjustable menu option itself. 2 Seconds is not long enough!

One of the main uses for a VHF or UHF handheld will be to access local repeaters when on the move. With this in mind I was very impressed with the voice prompts giving positive confirmation between Frequency Mode and Channel Mode. Frequency Mode is where you enter simplex frequencies and adjust the settings, and Channel Mode allows you to cycle through previously assigned memory channels. When switched on, the Wouxun will tell you which mode is being used, recalling the position the radio was in when you switched off.
When in ‘Channel Mode’, the rotary tuning control will cause each channel number to be spoken, as it is turned. Unfortunately, the actual frequency in the memory channel is not voiced, only the channel number.

Entering a repeater into a memory channel is fairly straightforward with just voice and audio prompts. Again, the main problems will be the short time allowed for each keystroke, and the need to remember menu numbers.

I found the easiest way of adding a repeater to a memory channel, was to firstly set the CTCSS frequency whilst still in simplex mode. In my case this was menu ‘16’ and then option ‘11’, giving a transmit CTCSS of 94.8.

I did not need to use repeater offsets, as I used a menu setting that allowed both input and output frequencies to be stored. Menu ‘27’ firstly stores the repeater receive frequency into a memory channel, and then using menu ’27 again allows the transmit frequency to be stored into the same memory channel.

So, the process would be to set the CTCSS first. In my case 94.8:

1. Press Function – FUNCTION SELECT, is spoken.

2. Press ‘1’ ‘6’ – BEEP BEEP.

3. Press Function – CTCSS, is spoken.

4. Press ‘1’ ‘1’ – BEEP BEEP.

5. Press Function – ENTER, is spoken.

Next, to set the repeater frequencies:

1. Enter the receive frequency – each number is spoken.

2. Press Function – FUNCTION SELECT, is spoken.

3. Press ‘2’ ‘7’ – BEEP BEEP.

4. Press Function – CHANNELL MEMORY, is spoken.

5. Press ‘0’ ‘0’ ‘1’ for channel 1 – BEEP BEEP BEEP.

6. Press Function – RECEIVING MEMORY, is spoken.

To set the ’input’, go through the same steps again, but this time enter the transmit frequency before you use menu 27. When ‘0’ ‘0’ ‘1’ is entered, for the channel number, TRANSMITTING MEMORY, is spoken.

The repeater settings are now stored in memory channel 1. The final step is to remove the CTCSS setting, as you are still in simplex mode. Select menu ‘16’ again, and choose option ‘0’ to turn off CTCSS.

With experience, I found I used simplex mode on either VHF or UHF quite happily. I found repeaters could be set up, and I could easily move through the memory channels, although I had to remember the contents of each memory channel.

The final step was to review the PC interface software for use with a screen reader. Again, Quentin found the software on the Wouxun Web site, and ordered a USB cable. Installation and set up was straightforward, and I started by ‘reading’ the settings in the Wouxun Back to the PC. The interface is simple, and shows each memory channel in a spreadsheet like table. I found that once a receive frequency had been added to the first column of the table, I could then tab to each subsequent column. Using a screen reader, in my case Window-eyes, I was able to read the column titles and then work out which area I was tabbing into. I could enter the transmit frequency, the ctcss tone, the power level, and whether wide or narrow FM was to be used. Using this method it is relatively easy to enter all of your local repeaters into memory channels. Once entered, these can be ‘written’ back to the radio.

In summary, my experience with the Wouxun was favourable. It is not perfect for a blind user, but with reference to an external menu list, and some dexterity in entering the settings, it can be satisfactorily used independently. If it is to be programmed with many memory channels, the Wouxun software and USB cable would be a very useful addition.

Related Downloads

PC control software for the Wouxun KG-UVD1P
Wouxun KG-UVD1P Tips and Hints for Eyes Free Operation by Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV

Icom IC-7400 Accessibility Review

Picture of Icom IC-7400 with frequency reading 14.195 mhzAccessibility Evaluation of Icom IC-7400

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

– May 2010.

When I start looking at a new or unfamiliar radio, I hope to find I can perform commonly used commands, without the need for menu access or multi-layered buttons. This is essential for a
blind user. Adjusting the volume, the frequency, and the mode, and having these spoken by the voice chip, would naturally come at the top of any list. Next would be the ability to adjust those very frequent occurrences like Band Pass filtering, Noise reduction, Notch Filters, ATU Tuning, Split Operation, Power Reduction. The kind of things we constantly adjust to get the best operating conditions possible for every QSO. Then would come adjustments like Mike Gain, Vox Gain, VOX Delay, and CW Pitch. In effect, the settings you might only adjust once per day.

With this notional list in mind, I try to learn if the essential commands have a dedicated control, or if I have to constantly enter a menu system. Accessibility for a blind user is not just about what Is being spoken, but whether the layout is intuitive. After all a blind operator does not have the luxury of being able to read descriptions on buttons. They must remember the position and function of every button, every knob, and possibly unspoken menu layouts and button sequences.

All of this means a radio with even a limited spoken vocabulary , can actually be very accessible if it is well designed. All of these thoughts came to mind when I first had my hands on the IC-7400!

My initial impressions were favourable. The radio is a traditional base station construction, and feels chunky and solid, and gives the impression of not being overloaded with buttons and knobs. The unit covers HF, 6M, and 2M, with three antenna sockets at the rear. The power output is 100 watts on all bands and modes.

The IC-7400 had been fitted with the optional UT-102 voice synthesizer. As with some other Icoms I have tried with this chip, the volume needed to be increased to maximum, by removing the radio’s casing and adjusting an internal pot. The UT-102 chip sounds rather stilted compared to newer Icoms with voice built in, and I found myself waiting impatiently for the complete frequency to be laboriously read through. The signal strength and frequency, are voiced by pressing and holding the lock button, and the mode is spoken as each Mode Button is individually pressed. One of my few criticisms of the IC-7400’s tactile layout, is the placement of the Voice announcement Button. It is tucked almost under, and very close to, the large VFO dial.

The radio comes with an internal automatic ATU rated at matching better than 3-1. There is a very subtle difference in the ‘clicks’ when turning the ATU on and off, with a quick press. When tuning, with a longer press, it is possible to decide if the ATU has found a match, depending on whether it has engaged ‘On’ or has failed to find a match ‘Off’. I was not overly enthusiastic about the very subtle indications I was being given for a potentially high, and therefore potentially damaging, SWR. I also found that the radio attempted tuning at full power, unless this was manually reduced.

In operation on the HF bands, I found the IC-7400 a pleasure to use. Whilst I had initially thought there were not many controls, I found there were just the right amount. The controls are very tactile and well spread over the front panel. I found I could easily adjust the Noise Reduction, the Notch filter, and the various Band Pass filtering to cut down splatter. The frequency is entered using a numeric keypad with hard smooth plastic buttons, and whilst a pip on the 5 would be useful, the numbers were well spaced. Split operating is intuitive, but no verbal indication is given.

Inevitably on a modern transceiver, there is a menu system. Unfortunately, none of the menu is spoken by the IC-7400. There are some important commands requiring menu access, but, in my opinion, these are not show stoppers. Two notable functions requiring menu adjustment are the Speech Compression on and off, and the AGC. With some practice, I believe the Compression can be turned on and off by a blind operator, but of course, a dedicated button would have made it so much easier. There is a Monitor Button, so using this in conjunction with the Compression setting, would enable an operator to hear any changes through headphones, before going on air.

I was pleased to find there is a Tuning Step Button, allowing the buttons on the microphone to step through the band in 1Khz or 50Hz steps. The Memo Pad or Quick Memory function is easy to use. The main Memory is again relatively straightforward, but none of the channel numbers are spoken, and only the frequency in each channel can be made to speak. I did not use the radio on VHF, but the fact the Duplexing, CTCSS, and other useful settings require unspoken menu access make this much less useable. Setting up repeater memories independently will be difficult, if not impossible.

The IC-7400 has a lot going for it as a multi-band, multi-mode transceiver. Because so many necessary functions have dedicated buttons or knobs, this radio can be very effectively used by a blind operator.

Related Downloads

None

Icom IC-7000 Accessibility Review

Picture of Icom IC-7000 with microphone resting on top of the radio
Accessibility Evaluation of Icom IC-7000

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

April 2010.

I had been looking forward to reviewing the IC-7000 for use by a blind operator. The radio is small, and can be regarded as being a mobile or portable transceiver. The main aspects of the IC-7000 are, the 160m to 70cm coverage, the multi-mode capability on all bands, and the 100 watt output in such a small package.

The radio is similar in size to the IC-703 and IC-706, but the interesting potential for a blind operator is the inclusion of a keypad on the microphone. This gives the operator the ability to enter a frequency, and goes some way to making up for the small physical size and sparse number of controls on the front panel.

The IC-7000 comes with a detachable front panel. The microphone and headphones plug into this panel, and it clips securely onto the body of the transceiver. The radio does not have an internal ATU, and the various tuning buttons on the front panel and microphone require a suitable external tuning unit. There are two SO239 antenna sockets at the rear of the radio, one for HF and one for VHF/UHF.

I initially found I had difficulty using some of the radio’s controls. The buttons on the front panel of the IC-7000 are very sleek and almost flush with the surrounding surface. After several days of use I became accustomed to this, but it is easy to unintentionally press the wrong button. I found the Function buttons, F1 to F4, along the base of the display, very hard to differentiate, but as these are virtually unusable on accessibility grounds, I tended to avoid these.

Icom have shipped the IC-7000 with a voice synthesizer fitted as standard. A press of the readout button speaks the received signal strength, frequency, and mode. The mode button can also be set-up to announce the mode as it is selected. With this limited spoken output, a blind operator relies on other audio cues, and needs dedicated controls for frequently used functions. With a radio of this size, the addition of a useable microphone keypad becomes essential.

Using just the front panel, I could control the audio volume, and the Squelch and RF gain are on a shared knob. I could alter the band Pass filtering with two concentric knobs, but the same controls are also shared for RIT and Memory Chanel selection, and I found I could not reliably use these.

Again from the front panel, I could select the Mode, and use the Pre-Amp, Attenuator, Noise Blanker, Noise Reduction, and Notch Filter. The front panel controls also allowed me to activate the voice chip and Frequency Lock, and step through the bands. The VFO itself is a good size, and fast tuning steps can be engaged.

As previously mentioned, the IC-7000 is shipped with a good sized keypad on the microphone. This usefully duplicates some of the controls on the front panel, such as the voice output and mode, but mainly offers additional controls. Of great importance is the inclusion of a good sized numeric keypad. This allows direct frequency input, and uses Icom’s stacking system for quickly moving to a previous frequency within a band.

In addition to the voice output, mode, and numeric keypad, there are buttons to toggle IF filters, tune the external ATU, and operate the memory channels. Two buttons step up and down in 50hz increments, or in 1 Khz steps if fast tuning is engaged.

The microphone also boasts two programmable buttons. In their default state they are Quick Memory Write and Quick Memory Recall. These simple functions are the only memories that can be sensibly used by a blind operator. I conclude the standard memory channels are not accessible.

With a modern radio of this size and complexity, it is inevitable many of the more advanced features will need to be set-up in the menu system. In the case of the IC-7000, the limitations of the voice chip means a blind operator will certainly need initial sighted assistance. Of more concern, is the potential need for on-going sighted help. For instance, I found power adjustment required use of the menu system. Whilst it is eminently possible to change the power, it is dependent on the operator memorising a sequence of steps or referring to notes .

To change power, a blind operator will need to use this sequence. press the AF control momentarily and hear a short beep. Press Function key 1. This highlights the last option on the menu list, so holding down F1 for a while will move back to the first entry. Hopefully, the Power option is selected. At this point, there is no audio indication of the current power level. Turn the VFO knob anti-clockwise at least two turns. This will set the power to its minimum level. From this point, every half clockwise turn of the VFO will increase power by approximately 25%. Two full clockwise turns will give full power. The final step is to momentarily press the AF control twice, giving one short beep, followed by a longer beep. If there is any deviation in this sequence, other important parameters can be accidentally changed, potentially putting the radio into an unusable state!

Other areas of difficulty are most notably in using the Split function. In its default state, Split can only be invoked through the inaccessible menu. It is possible to allocate Split commands to the two programmable buttons of the microphone, but the Quick Memory commands would then be lost.

In its basic operation, the IC-7000 can be used by a blind operator. The radio is more accessible than the IC-703 or IC-706, because of the microphone keypad. I have reservations over the difficulty in performing tasks such as changing power and operating in Split mode. The lack of memory channel accessibility could compromise repetitive VHF repeater use. Commonly used controls such as RIT, Compression, Mic Gain, and AGC, all require use of the menu.

In summary, this radio can be used by a blind amateur, but independentchanging of common functions are not possible. Unfortunately, with the limited amount of information spoken by the synthesizer, there are just not enough dedicated controls to allow a blind person independent use of the IC-7000.

Comment 1:

Hi Kelvin
Liked your review, but there is also one other useful attribute to this little radio,
it is the ability to add a television or monitor screen via its video output which
could be considered useful to a partially sighted person.
I use this facility and use a 9” wide screen television to make viewing the screen
easier.
Hope you don’t mind me adding my pennyworth.
Regards
Jerry
MU0VVZ

Comment 2:

By Trevor VK6YJ, January 2013.

I have owned the IC7000 from Icom maybe just over twelve Months, for me it fills the bill, HF VHF and UHF.

A nice small Radio, sits on the operating desk well, compared with my old IC745. One major difference between the two radios, the size, and the 7000 does not have an in built power supply.

The HF side of the Radio is strait forward, once you have the settings as you want Them, all is well. Frequency, Signal strength and mode are announced. Would be an advantage if the voice output could say more. HF works well.

Now to VHF and UHF, here is where I have difficulties in using this Radio. Simplex operation no trouble, using the repeaters etc becomes a problem. Reason for this is keeping the settings that were set, as when you go to change something on the front panel, if the correct sequence is not followed, the radio settings head off in to unintended areas, and you don’t realise which group of settings you have gotten in to. Speech is read out just like on HF, and only when pressing the PTT do you find out if you’re on simplex or Duplex.

I find the buttons on the front panel no trouble to use, the only thing is, I don’t know what they are going to do. One reason for this, is the lack of information for the blind in the Manual. If the manual was in a text or some way we could study it, I feel sure some of us might be able to work the Radio. It would be better if for example , the Manual stated ‘press F1 twice, then F4 once’, and then stated what should happen. But all we get from the PDF manual is press F1 185 then F4 177 or whatever. Too many Graphics.

A great deal of the operation can be done from the HM151 microphone, for me even this is a problem I do forget what some buttons do, unless you use them all the time. If there is a good pair of Eyes around things could be done easier. For me however, the XYL Her Eyes are as bad as mine. With an attachment, a desk microphone can be connected. Have not done this yet, a new Microphone is still in its box where I put it this afternoon when it arrived from the supplier. Summing up, a good radio only if more could be gained from the controls, does not take up much room, the Radio can get a little warm at times.

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