Using Ham Radio Deluxe
with a 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 HRD and screen readers. This one describes how to use the JAWS reader, and the other article describes how to use the free NVDA reader.
Ham Radio Deluxe is now developed and sold by HRD Software, 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.
I tested the HRD rig control program using JAWS screen reader.
The user manual lists the minimum system requirements for different versions of the Windows operating system.
HRD and JAWS are both complicated programs, so it's advisable to use the 30 day free trial of HRD to test both programs on your computer.
On my Windows 7 system (3.1 GHz, dual core i3 processor and 4 GB RAM) HRD and JAWS worked together without problems.
The HRD graphical control panel is not designed for screen reader programs. Even when exploring with the mouse cursor, there is no way for JAWS users to operate the band selection buttons, graphical sliders, or the toolbar.
My Google searches about using HRD with a screen reader did not offer any useful information.
Fortunately, HRD works well with a screen reader if 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 settings in the radio menu are also accessible.
Basic HRD configuration can also be done using a screen reader, with the exception that customizing frequency ranges requires visual use of a mouse.
Table 1. HRD locations accessible with JAWS.
HRD Control/Indicator. Accessible Location.
Control Buttons. Main Control Panel.
Band Switch. Page Up/Down Keys.
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 JAWS
Here are some examples of how to operate using HRD with JAWS. For details, refer to the Configuration section below.
Band Switching: The Page Up and Page Down keys step through a user-configurable list of frequency ranges. JAWS automatically reads the new frequency.
You can define several frequency ranges in each band, and HRD remembers the mode for each—CW, Data, Upper Sideband, etc.
RF Power Setting: HRD slider controls in the Advanced Options window are accessible. Press F3 and then Control + TAB down the list while JAWS reads the Tab names. Pause at "RF", and it reads the RF power on a scale of 0 to 100%. Change a setting with an Arrow key, and JAWS reports the new power level.
The RF Gain slider is also in this Tab window. Press TAB to go to the RF Gain slider, and JAWS reads the setting. Almost all of the Tab windows display multiple sliders. Shift + TAB back to the list of Tabs, and Down Arrow tells you which sliders are in each Tab window.
As with any open window, ALT + F4 closes the Advanced Options window.
Changing Frequency: Some controls on the radio, such as the VFO tuning knob, are easier to use than their HRD controls. Toggle speech off during tuning, unless you want to wait while JAWS reads a buffered list of the frequencies that swept past. For JAWS the command is "Insert + Space Bar; Release the keys; then Press S." This shortcut also toggles speech back on, and JAWS reports only the current frequency.
A slower option is to press Enter to open the HRD Enter Frequency window. TAB through the window once to highlight the current frequency, type the new frequency in MHz (eg, 7.18), TAB to the Apply button, and press Enter.
Another option is to use the radio channel memory, either with buttons on the radio front panel or with buttons on the HRD control panel.
S-meter: Enable the HRD speech synthesizer (in the Voice menu) with Control + ALT + V. Then, press SHIFT + F12 when you want to hear the S-Reading.
Also, some radio speech chips enable you to request the S-reading via 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 a menu with the options.
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 following graphical elements on the main control panel are not accessible. 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. When open, the Selections menu of menus is a sidebar at the left edge of the panel—a list of sub-menus that pull down when selected with a mouse.
Figure 1. HRD Main Control Panel.
Using HRD Control Buttons
The control buttons next to the frequency readout are directly accessible to screen readers 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. Tether the mouse cursor to the PC cursor with the JAWS command "Insert + Control + Number Pad Minus", which is only needed once when JAWS opens.
When the HRD control panel is the active window, the PC cursor returns to the bank of buttons. Pressing TAB steps through the list of buttons, and JAWS automatically reads the names. To activate a button, click on it by pressing the JAWS keyboard mouse button, which is "Number Pad Forward Slash." (JAWS says "Press Space Bar, but that only works with some buttons.)
Most HRD buttons toggle controls on and off. Some buttons (Mode, Filter, AGC, and others) open a pull-down menu. Step down the list with the Arrow key, and JAWS reads each item. Pressing Enter selects the option and closes the menu.
Radio Setup: The Radio Setup section in the HRD user manual gives detailed instructions. The Radio Connect window (ALT + F > Connect)—for selecting the radio make and model, COM port, and baud rate—is accessible.
Favorites Menu: The list of favorite frequencies in Selections is not accessible via the keyboard.
Bands List: As mentioned earlier, the Bands list enables band switching using the Page Up and Page Down keys. You can define several frequency ranges in each band, and HRD remembers the mode for each. The collection of all your ranges is called a "layout." Setting up a layout (with Bands Manager in the Bands menu) and selecting it to be the default requires use of the computer screen.
Control Buttons Layout: The position of each button in the bank is customizable (View menu > Customize > Radio Layout). The process involves clicking and dragging buttons using a mouse.
Keyboard Shortcuts: In HRD these are called "Accelerators." The dialog window to define them is accessible, but you need to know the exact, case-dependent button name from the HRD control panel. "Accelerators" is the first item in the Options window list (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 JAWS 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 to navigate to the others using the TAB key.
It also takes multiple keystrokes to get to and 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 basic screen reader commands. The JAWS user manual explains how to set up Frame Events that indicate the status of a control button.
Also, you can determine the status of many controls by toggling them on and off (eg, noise reduction and attenuation) or resetting (eg, mode and filter width).
The Ham Radio Deluxe rig control program is accessible to screen readers. The only JAWS commands you need are voice muting, tethering the mouse cursor to the PC cursor at the beginning of a session, and the keyboard mouse button. For everything else, JAWS 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.