Accessible multimeters?

Stuart Longland wrote 09/08/2017 at 07:27 1 point

Just a thought, I saw this piece in the WIA news feed this afternoon (


Can you use your handheld, mobile or base station amateur radio without looking at the display?
This is the challenge faced by numerous hams around the world. Joseph Stephen VK5LDR is one such ham. A totally blind software engineer, married for 21 years, a father of 9, and author of several books, Joseph has been working in the area of assistive technology for more than 30 years. His main job for the past 20 has been developing screen reading software to enable blind folk around the world to use a standard pc for study, work and recreation.
Joseph began his interest in communications back in the 80s on the 27 MHz CB band. He then moved to the UHF CB band. He gained his foundation Amateur license in 2015 and his standard license in 2016.
He has set himself up as a contact, advocate and assistant to other blind hams around Australia, providing services such as advice, training in the use of, and programming of radios. He has been in contact with several manufacturers over the years to request more consideration of accessibility in future designs. Many companies have introduced half-baked solutions over the years, and most blind hams have had to put up with little to moderate accessibility.
Most hams grow old, and many lose their vision. Would you like to give up your radio when that happens? Now is the time to be aware of just how an inaccessible radio will affect most hams at some point in their life, that may include you.
Awareness and advocacy is thus a critical thing for all hams to be thinking about before it is too late. Just because a radio talks, doesn't mean you can program it without sighted assistance. Many Chinese radios speak the channel number and even some menu items, but do not speak the frequency, mode, or menu settings.
On the other hand, just because a radio doesn't talk, doesn't mean a blind person can't use it completely independently, including programming it. Some Kenwood handhelds use distinct beeps when toggling settings on or off, or the first in a series of menu items or at channel 0.
Some radios like the Icom IC-T90A, do not speak, nor have distinct beeps, but provide the current frequency by way of CW at the press of a button. Some base stations can speak limited information if an optional voice chip is installed.
The most accessible handheld radio to-date is the Kenwood TH-D74, which has full speech feedback, but is unavailable in Australia due to needless bureaucracy!
Ultimately, a blind person must be able to get the radio into a known and predictable state through a series of key presses, and remembering the number and order of menu items and available options. If there is inadequate speech feedback, if all key presses issue the same tone, or if menu options dynamically change and thus one can't predictably know where they are in the menu system, radios are a complete frustration for a blind operator, let alone tuning an antenna using an SWR meter, or testing a battery with a multimeter which doesn't beep or speak. Even in this area, 25 years ago, one could pick up a talking multimeter from Tandy for around $50. Today, blind hams have no current options. In fact, some companies laugh at the possibility of a blind person using a multimeter.
Many assume they can't be educated enough not to kill themselves.
We need to change this perception.
Many hams will one day lose their vision.
If you want to remain in the hobby, start demanding accessibility now, so that by the time you need it, you will be able to use your rig without your eyes.


If manufacturers want to laugh, perhaps we the hacker community can laugh back.  Seems there's a plethora of capable MCUs that can generate speech and talk to a multimeter (or a radio transceiver for that matter), and even if you can see, who says you can afford to take your eyes off the thing you're looking at to go check a voltage reading?