Using Ham Radio Deluxe
with NVDA Screen Reader
Eyes-Free Rig Control
This article is for blind and vision-impaired hams who want more access to the controls and settings of a transceiver. The Ham Radio Deluxe rig control program can provide access via a screen reader.
There are two HamRadioAndVision articles about using HRD with a screen reader. This one is for users of the free NVDA reader, and a separate article describes how to use HRD with JAWS.
NVDA Screen Reader
NVDA works with three types of keyboards—desktop, laptop, and touch screen. The NVDA modifier key used with commands depends on the keyboard. In this article the modifier key "Insert" for desktop keyboards is used, for example, "Insert + Forward Slash."
Ham Radio Deluxe is now developed and sold by HRD Sofware, LLC. They offer customer support and a free 30-day trial.
Free downloads of Version 5 are available. (The company approves.) Version 5 does not work with Windows 10 when it is installed in the default install folder/directory. On 11/25/2016, Chip, VA3KGB, sent a note reporting that this is due to security restrictions in Windows 10, and that he has successfully used it (as well as Version 6) by installing it in a different folder on his Windows 10 computers.
The user manual lists the minimum system requirements for the different versions of Windows.
HRD and NVDA are both complicated programs, so it's advisable to use the 30 day free trial of HRD to test them on your computer.
On my Windows 7 system (3.1 GHz, dual core i3 processor and 4 GB RAM) HRD worked well with either NVDA or JAWS.
The HRD graphical control panel is not designed for use with screen reader programs. There is no way for NVDA users to access the graphical sliders, band switching buttons, or Band Selection menu on the panel.
My Google searches about using HRD with a screen reader did not offer any useful information.
Fortunately, HRD works well with NVDA when you bypass the inaccessible elements on the control panel. Options windows and keyboard shortcuts provide access to radio controls and settings. The radio memories and some radio menu items are accessible, as well as basic configuration of HRD.
Table 1. Locations in HRD that are accessible with NVDA.
HRD Control/Indicator. Accessible Location.
Control Buttons. Main Control Panel.
Band Switch. Favorites Menu.
Sliders. Advanced Options.
S-meter. Voice Menu.
Frequency. Enter Frequency Window.
HRD Configuration. Accessible Location.
Radio Setup. Connect Dialog Window.
Keyboard Shortcuts. Accelerators Window.
Using HRD with NVDA
Here are some examples of how to operate using HRD with NVDA. For details, refer to the Configuration section below.
RF Gain and Power Settings: HRD slider controls in the Advanced Options window are accessible. Press F3 and then Control + TAB through the Tabs as NVDA reads each name. Pause at "RF", and it reads the RF gain on a scale of 0 to 100%. Change settings with an arrow key. To hear the new setting, press any arrow key briefly.
The RF Power slider is also in this Tab window. Press TAB to select it, and NVDA reads the setting. Most of the Tab windows display more than one slider. To hear a list of the sliders in each Tab window, Shift + TAB back to the list of Tabs and use the Down Arrow.
As with any open window, ALT + F4 closes the Advanced Options window.
Changing Frequency: Some controls on the radio, including the VFO knob, are easier to use than their HRD controls.
Before using the radio tuning knob, enable the HRD speech synthesizer (in the Voice menu) with Control + ALT + V, and NVDA will announce new frequencies automatically. Unlike JAWS, NVDA does not delay you by reading a long list of buffered frequencies on the way to the new one.
To change frequency with NVDA instead of the VFO knob, press Enter to open the Enter Frequency window. Press TAB to highlight the current frequency, and NVDA reads it. Type a frequency in MHz, eg, 7.21, press Enter, and close the window with ALT + F4.
You can also use the Favorites menu, a sidebar at the left edge of the HRD panel. NVDA automatically reads accessible items under the mouse cursor without clicking. Using the mouse this way, locate the Favorites list of band folders and frequencies, read it, and click on a new frequency.
The radio channel memory is another option, via the radio front panel or using the memory control buttons on the HRD control panel.
Band Switching: Depending on the radio, Band Buttons or Radio Channel Memory Buttons on the radio front panel are sometimes the most convenient way to change bands.
To use NVDA, any of the ways just mentioned to change frequency will automatically select the correct band.
S-meter: The HRD speech synthesizer can speak S-readings. Enable speech (in the Voice menu) with Control + ALT + V. Then, Shift + F12 when you want to hear the S-reading.
Also, some speech chips enable you to get the S-reading by pressing a button on the radio.
AGC Setting: The Automatic Gain Control (Fast, Medium, Slow, Off) is typically a radio menu item. In HRD the AGC dropdown button opens this menu.
HRD Main Control Panel
Here is a description of the HRD control panel (Figure 1):
The menu bar at the top and the banks of control buttons on both sides of the digital frequency readout are accessible. Button functions depend on the radio, and the layout is customizable.
The Selections menu of menus opens as a slidebar at the left edge of the panel—a list of sub-menus that pull down when clicked with a mouse. Only the Favorites sub-menu is accessible with NVDA.
The following graphical elements on the main control panel are not accessible with NVDA. Moving down from the frequency readout, in order: the S-meter bargraph, fine tuning bar-slider, band selection buttons, and coarse tuning bars for different frequency ranges. A group of control sliders is across the bottom of the panel.
Figure 1. HRD Main Control Panel.
Using HRD Control Buttons
The control buttons next to the frequency readout are directly accessible in two ways—keyboard shortcuts and keyboard mouse controls:
User-definable shortcut keys are the quickest way to activate a button. For example, assign ALT + B to toggle Noise Reduction on and off, and ALT + C to open the Mode selection menu.
Keyboard mouse controls. When the HRD control panel is the active window the PC cursor returns to the bank of control buttons. Pressing TAB steps the PC cursor through the list of buttons, and NVDA automatically reads the names. To activate a button move the mouse cursor to the PC cursor by pressing "Insert + Number Pad Forward Slash". Click on the HRD button with the NVDA keyboard mouse button, which is "Number Pad Forward Slash".
Clicking on most HRD buttons toggles a control on and off. Clicking on some buttons (Mode, Filters, AGC, and others) opens a pull-down menu. With the menu open use the mouse to read the options. Clicking on an item closes the menu.
Radio Setup: The Radio Setup section in the HRD user manual gives detailed instructions. The Radio Connect window (File menu > Connect) is accessible for selecting the radio make and model, COM port, and baud rate.
Favorites Menu: The Favorites menu (press F10) opens as a sidebar on the left edge of the control panel. It will open by default when HRD is restarted.
Favorites Manager in the Favorites menu is accessible with NVDA. The layout is complicated, and you might want sighted assistance to set up a list of favorite frequencies plus modes.
Bands List: Band layouts in the Selections menu are not accessible with NVDA.
Control Buttons Layout: The position of each button is customizable (View menu > Customize > Radio Layout). The process involves clicking and dragging buttons with a mouse, so it is not accessible with NVDA.
Keyboard Shortcuts: In HRD, shortcuts are called "Accelerators." The dialog window to define them is accessible, but you need to know the exact, case-dependent button name that is on the HRD control panel. "Accelerators," is the first item in the Options window (press F8). Press TAB twice to the Add button, and press Space Bar to open the Accelerator window.
Speed of Access: The fastest way to change a radio setting with NVDA and HRD is to use an HRD keyboard shortcut. You can define one for every accessible button on the HRD panel, but remembering all of them is another matter. In practice, it's reasonable to use shortcuts for the most frequently used buttons and navigate to the others using the TAB key.
It also takes multiple keystrokes to use a control slider. This might affect your choice of controls on the radio front panel.
Button Status: You can customize buttons to be large, high-visibility status indicators that change to a bright color when on, but the on or off status is not accessible with NVDA. You can figure out the status of many controls by toggling them on and off (eg, noise reduction and attenuation) or resetting them (eg, mode or filter width).
The Ham Radio Deluxe rig control program is accessible with NVDA. The only NVDA commands used in this article are (1) move the mouse cursor to the PC cursor and (2) click the left mouse button. For everything else, NVDA works automatically.
Thanks to Chris, WB9RSQ, and Brian, W1BLS, for helpful comments.
Peter DeNeef, AE7PD, is an Extra Class amateur radio operator in the U.S. This Web site has no ads or conflicts of interest.
Email: HamRadioAndVision "at" gmail "dot" com.