I. Using EchoLink
EchoLink can be very useful to blind and vision-impaired amateur radio operators. It is an application that makes a Voice Over the Internet connection from a computer to other computers, VHF or UHF repeaters, and simplex transceivers.
Figure 1 is a screen capture of an EchoLink window. Using the directory tree on the left, you choose which stations are displayed in the center box. In Figure 1 the Favorites folder is selected. The suffix for each call sign tells whether the station is a computer (no suffix), a repeater (-R), or a simplex transceiver (-L).
Figure 1. An EchoLink window. Detailed description
If you run EchoLink on your computer, the sizes of the text and the icons on your screen will be the same as in the figure. With only a mild vision impairment the small font size can be hard to read. On a typical desktop PC screen the upper case letters are only around 0.1 inch high. You can enlarge the text somewhat by increasing the DPI setting in your computer. That can cause long call signs to extend into the next column. The column width is adjustable, but it reverts to the original width when EchoLink is restarted.
For magnification you can use the Magnifier Tool that comes with Windows (Start Menu → Accessories → Ease of Access) or a program such as ZoomText or Magic. A bigger screen may also help.
If you can't read directly from a computer screen, you can use screen reader software and the 45 keyboard shortcuts built into EchoLink. Or, as described on the next page, you can use the free EchoShack interface without a screen reader.
The EchoLink User Experience
It is often easiest to put the call signs of your frequent contacts in the Favorites Folder and select it to be shown as in Figure 1. Then, each time you launch EchoLink the Favorites Folder will have the focus, and you can follow these steps:
1. Press Tab once to move into your Favorites list.
2. Move the cursor through the list with the Up/Down Arrows.
3. Press Enter to connect to the selected station.
4. Press [Alt] + [D] to disconnect.
To connect without using the Favorites Folder, open the Connect To dialog box with [Ctrl] + [O], type the call sign, and press Enter.
There is no way to call CQ using EchoLink, but the network is well suited to QSO's between hams with an arrangement for when calls are welcome. You can also connect to a repeater, give your call sign, and in the usual way announce that you are monitoring.
The total number of stations connected to the network is displayed in the window. Thousands of hams use EchoLink every day. You can get a range of viewpoints from the eHam web site. The most frequently discussed problem is setting up a home router to allow port forwarding to your computer. To get detailed instructions, you can enter your router model number at the portforward.com web site.
Using EchoLink with a Screen Reader
A separate article covers more details about the accessibility of the program via screen readers.
Cost: Free (Requires proof of license.)
Pros: Popular. Worldwide VHF/UHF band access. Convenient
connections to favorite stations.
Cons: Small text size. No CQ calls.
Computer requirements and conclusions are on page 5.