Using the Icom RS-BA1 Rig Control Program with a Screen Reader
WB9RSQ and AE7PD
Icom RS-BA1 software makes it possible to monitor and control an Icom transceiver either locally or remotely. This article is about the accessibility of RS-BA1 with a screen reader.
WB9RSQ is a blind ham who uses the program with the Window Eyes screen reader both for local and remote operation of his IC-9100 transceiver.
Software and User Interface
The RS-BA1 software and user interface are described in a separate HamRadioAndVision article. The control panel layout (Figure 1) is the same for every supported radio.
Figure 1. RS-BA1 user interface.
The control panel is not easy to use with a screen reader. For example, the simulation of the radio data-display screen is graphical, so it contains no text that screen readers are designed to recognize. Also, you can't tab through the controls on the panel. While it is possible to locate controls with a mouse, that is a slow process.
Fortunately, RS-BA1 enables you to define a wide range of keyboard shortcuts. Also, many of the radio menus and settings are accessible via the RS-BA1 Set Mode and Operating Panels menus (in the View menu).
WB9RSQ makes extensive use of keyboard shortcuts for both local and remote operation. He selects the Shift key and other key combinations for shortcut definitions so that an accidental bump to a single key can't cause a problem. Here are some examples:
Shift-a for AM mode, Shift-s for SSB, Shift-c for CW, Shift-8 for Digital Voice, Shift-f for FM, Shift-r for RTTY, Shift-t for Transmit On, Alt-Shift-F12 for RF Power Up, Alt-Shift-F13 for RF Power Down, and CTRL-Shift-d to operate the Duplex Rotor. (A rotor can be a knob-operated control or a button that steps through a sequence of settings.)
There is a list of shortcut options for the IC-9100 transceiver at the end of this article.
WB9RSQ uses shortcuts to move up and down the band (PageUp and PageDown are the defaults), along with additional commands to change the frequency step size.
He usually avoids key combinations that are default commands for the screen reader, but in some cases he disables a screen reader hotkey to use for an easy-to-remember RS-BA1 shortcut.
WB9RSQ adds his shortcuts to the Key Label Dictionery in Window Eyes for spoken feedback about the action of keystrokes. For example, pressing "Shift-s" to change modes produces a beep followed by the announcement, "SSB."
For local operation some controls on the radio are easier to use than keyboard shortcuts. For example, you might prefer to use the VFO knob, mode selector buttons, and audio level control on the radio.
Pressing the Speech button on the radio panel is the easiest way to hear the frequency setting during local operation. This is not possible during remote operation because there is no option for a Speech button shortcut.
WB9RSQ has devised a method to interpret the RS-BA1 frequency readout using graphic-to-numeric labels. This requires advanced screen reader techniques for monitoring an area on the screen, and you must take care that the screen resolution and the location of the RS-BA1 window remain fixed.
Menus and Dialog Boxes
RS-BA1 menus are accessible, and as mentioned above, they enable you to change many radio menu settings.
For example, here is how to change the mic gain: The Audio Source dialog box enables you select (1) the local microphone jack, (2) the back panel port, or (3) the USB jack. After you locate the graphical selector for mic gain using the JAWS cursor or the Window Eyes mouse keys, the right mouse button increases mic gain and the left button decreases it.
Closing the dialog window returns focus to the main control panel. Some windows have a Close button in the Tab sequence, but others, including the Audio Source dialog, do not. In that case, the standard shortcut ALT-F4 closes the window.
Using D-STAR with RS-BA1
The various D-STAR screens in RC-BA1 can be read and edited using most screen readers. The screens have normal tab sequences as well as edit and control buttons that are generally recognized. You can read the received call sign, define the UR-Call and RPT1/RPT2 fields, and enter text that is associated with your transmissions.
The Call Record screen appears when a signal is first received in D-STAR mode. From that point on you are locked in to the D-STAR screens and dialogs until you close the screens and leave D-STAR mode. If you close the screens and remain in digital voice mode, the D-STAR window opens with the next signal.
A separate article describes how WB9RSQ bypasses controls that depend on the radio front panel when he uses D-STAR without RS-BA1.
RS-BA1 offers 26 banks of 100 user-definable memories that are separate from the memory in the radio. In D-STAR mode the memories provide a quick way to set the fields. With good labeling of the channels, this is the most convenient way to connect to a reflector or make a direct call.
Up and Down Arrows on the list of channels give instant radio changes, but the banks list doesn't read or behave quite as well. Also, you must close the memory screen manually.
Screen reader users can monitor and control an Icom transceiver locally and remotely with RS-BA1 software.
Shortcut Options for the IC-9100
Connect on/off, Remote on/off, Exit.
Frequency up, Frequency down, Tuning speed up, Tuning
speed down, Keypad entries, Band 1.8, etc.
Transmit toggle, Tuner toggle, Tune, Antenna select, Monitor
toggle, Break-in, Pre-amp, Attenuator rotor, AGC Rotor,
Noise blanker toggle, Noise reduction toggle, Speech
compression toggle, twin passband rotor modes, filter rotor,
Passband tuning clear, Notch filter 1 and 2, APF toggle,
TPF toggle, Digital select, XFC toggle, AFC toggle, Split
toggle, Duplex mode, VFO A or B change, VFO A equals B,
VFO B equals A, Tone squelch mode select, Voice squelch
mode toggle, Memopad write, Memopad read, Memory
write, Memory clear, Memory up, Memory down, Memory
bank up, Memory bank down, Mic set mode, Set mode.
RF power up, RF power down, RF gain up, RF gain down,
Squelch up, Squelch down, AF gain up, AF gain down,
Passband 1 tune up, Passband 1 tune down, Passband 2
tune up, Passband 2 tune down, Notch 1 filter up,
Notch 1 filter down, Notch 2 filter up, Notch 2 filter down,
CW pitch up, CW pitch down.
Voice CW Keyer Category
Message 1 through 8, Repeat messages 1 through 8,
Auto TX CW Keyer, Cancel, Cancel and clear CW keyer,
Calibration CW keyer.
Chris Zenchenko, WB9RSQ, and Peter DeNeef, AE7PD, are amateur radio operators in the U.S.
Email: HamRadioAndVision "at" gmail "dot" com.