RT Systems Radio Programming
Software Accessibility

 

   This article is about the accessibility of RT Systems radio programming software for blind and vision-impaired amateur radio operators.

Software

   RT Systems sells Windows software and programming cables for over a hundred radio models—handheld, mobile, D-STAR, HF, and receivers. A list of video tutorials is here.

   I tested an RT Systems programmer (v 4.50.45) for Icom IC-9100 transceivers along with Windows Magnifier and the free NVDA screen reader.

User Interface

   The user interface shows radio channel data in a spreadsheet (Figures 1 and 2). Each row displays the data for one channel. You can select which columns are displayed (Settings menu → Preferences).

Figure 1. RT Systems IC-9100 programmer.

Figure 2. D-STAR channels.

Memory Tabs

   Each tab at the bottom of the program window represents a different group of channel memories, so the number of tabs depends on the band memory system of the radio. The Icom IC-9100 programmer has nine tabs: HF, VHF, UHF, 1.2 GHz, Digital Repeaters (DR), Satellite, VFO, Call Channels, and GPS.

   By comparison, the Icom ID-51 programmer has a single band-memories tab (combining 2 meter and 70 cm channels) along with tabs for Scan Limits, Digital Repeaters, Call Channels, and GPS.

Program Menus and Preferences

   Items in the Settings menu open (1) configuration windows for radio menu settings and (2) preferences for program displays.

   The Calculator in the D-STAR menu is an intuitive user interface for programming D-STAR channels, including repeater control commands and lists of repeaters and reflectors by location.

Visibility

   The programmer works well with the Windows Magnifier utility. There are also font and size options for the spreadsheets (Settings → Preferences → Font tab). The 24 point Open Symbol font in Figures 1 & 2 is easier to read than the default MS Sans Serif.

NVDA Screen Reader

   In September, 2013, KA2HOI and N2AAM posted a YouTube video demonstrating that RT Systems programmers are accessible with the free NVDA screen reader. The reader works automatically when you navigate in the spreadsheet with Tab and Arrow keys. No special keyboard commands are required for the screen reader.

   None of the other screen readers they tested work with the program.

Access to Channel Data

   Pressing the Tab key moves the focus from one column to the next. All four Arrow keys also work. To enter or edit data such as frequency, press the space bar to highlight the cell, type the data, and press Enter.

   When the options are in a list, NVDA says, for example, "Channel 2, Tone Mode, Combo Box, Tone..." to indicate that "Tone" is the selected item in the Tone Mode column. Arrow keys move through the options. Press Enter to move to the next column. Magnifier users can click on the cell for a pull-down menu.

   Control-Page Up selects the next memory tab to the right—VHF, UHF, etc—and Control-Page Down moves to the left. NVDA reads the tab names.

Access to Radio Menu Settings

   RT Systems software menus have standard keyboard access. For example, ALT-F takes you to the File menu, and Down Arrow moves through the items. Select an item with Enter, and press Escape to close the menu. Press Escape again to shift focus back to the spreadsheet.

   ALT-S takes you to the Settings menu, and Enter opens the Radio Menu Settings dialog. The video by KA2HOI and N2AAM shows that the Wouxun HT menu is accessible with the NVDA reader. The name and status of each item are spoken as you step through the items by pressing Tab.

   The extensive menus for the IC-9100 are distributed in five windows that open via tabs in the Radio Menu Settings dialog. After getting data from the radio, the current settings in the radio menus are displayed in the programmer. Sighted assistance is required to locate and change most of them because NVDA does not speak the name of every item.

Summary

   RT Systems radio programming software spreadsheets are easily accessible with a screen magnifier utility and with the free NVDA screen reader.

Acknowledgment

   Thanks to Karin, K0RTX, of RT Systems for a review copy of the programmer.

Author Information

   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.

rev. 3/24/2014

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