I’m going to make suggestions you probably haven’t heard before and, moreover, probably haven’t considered before. At least in the amateur radio community, there is a significant population of blind radio operators. We often find ourselves of course needing to use all kinds of radios. Some work a lot better for us than others, though I suspect in most cases, design and usability features that we find useful were designed without necessarily thinking about our needs. I call this “accessibility by accident”. Mind you, it’s a very useful thing, and I’m all for it, but it goes at least some way to proving that often, universal access doesn’t need to be expensive, intrusive, or disruptive to the general user base. Just ask Apple about this. They’ve managed to include access features across their entire product line.
However, I’m not proposing anything nearly so radical as Apple.
Several years ago, I discovered handheld radios from Wouxun. I wasn’t the first by any means, but when I got word that some Chinese company came out with an inexpensive handheld radio that had some limited voice feedback, I was really excited, because no one else had such a thing. True, the voice feedback was inconsistent, meaning there was still a lot that didn’t talk, but Wouxun accidentally made their radios very usable anyway, by allowing direct keypad access to all menu options, meaning they could be selected by number in a consistent and predictable way. Baofeng, Puxing, and TYT have similar operating schemes, with varying levels of “eyes-free” ease of use. Currently, the Puxing PX-UV973 seems to have an edge, as its menus speak as you scroll through them, and many of the actual settings also speak. In all cases, however, there are always one or two small problems that must be worked around in order to effectively use the radio if you can’t see it.
Generally speaking, here are things that I have found very useful.
Voice tags. Every menu option should have a useful voice guidance. In all cases, every radio I’ve ever used has had at least a few options that either have no voice guide or have a voice guide that doesn’t say anything useful. Things like “Shift”, “Shift frequency”, “Frequency step”, “Squelch”, “Power” are useful. For settings, “Plus”,“Minus”, “Off” (for shift direction), “High” and “Low” (for power), “On” and “Off” for things that toggle, and so on.
Beeps. If memory is a constraint, and I understand it can be, strategically placed tones are extremely useful. Two tones, low to high for an “Up” button press, high to low for a “Down” button press, are obvious. Similar beep tone pairs could be used to denote on/off toggles, for instance, A/B VFO’s, or Single/Dual receive, High/Low power, Reverse/normal frequency pairs, etc. For lists or menus, a beep tone could denote the first entry in the menu, such as 67.0 hz in the list of CTCSS tones, the first entry on a settings menu, etc. Such a tone could also denote a default setting, such that a different pitch could indicate that CTCSS and DCS are both disabled, or the repeater shift is disabled. The key here is that one item has a different sound from anything else in a list or toggle. One kind of neat thing that Icom has done, for example, is that they play a longer beep tone when the final digit of a frequency or memory channel is entered.
If we’re talking about digital radio in specific, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any experience with this, though i should think that having a frequency or memory channel read out by voice, along with call signs or other identifiers also read out by voice on demand would be extremely helpful.
If you’re still with me, thanks for reading. If I can be of any assistance, let me know. If you need assistance with English language manuals, let me know that as well, as I would be pleased to work with you.