Serious Question about deaf hams prior to droping Morse Code

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by N4EGA, Jun 15, 2015.

ad: L-HROutlet
ad: l-rl
ad: Left-2
ad: abrind-2
ad: Left-3
ad: L-Geochron
ad: L-MFJ
  1. N4EGA

    N4EGA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi all.

    Something occurred to me the other day: I was communicating with a deaf man via iphone as I do not know sign language.

    It got me curious as to whether or not there were any kind of exemptions to the CW requirement in the past for deaf people?

    I know that SSB would be a limited activity as well, but RTTY would seem to an activity that a hearing impaired person would be able to partake in.

    I have seen that there were deaf hams in the past (if i read it correctly) but was there a exemption made for those folks?
  2. K4JDH

    K4JDH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Lights were allowed for cw testing.
    It seems like 5wpm was the only speed needed.
  3. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Many deaf amateur radio operators copied code by placing their fingers on the cone of the speaker in the receiver. That is, the vibrations of the tone, of the code, were "felt" and, as such, decoded by the brain.

    Glen, K9STH
  4. W5PFG

    W5PFG Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    A doctor's note could be used in lieu of taking the Morse code portion of the exam. While sometimes the practice was abused, it allowed for many individuals who were legitimately incapable of passing the Morse requirement the ability to become licensed.
  5. WA9ZZZ

    WA9ZZZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Also wanting to know

    I have been curious about that, too, but have never found the answer.

    Many years ago, shortly after I got my general license, I got in to RTTY. Somewhere in my reading I learned that one of the authors of some of the articles in RTTY magazine was deaf. That was Robert Weitbrecht, [1], W6NRM (SK). He had a general class license (if I recall correctly). I do not think there were any medical exemptions at that time. So I do not know how he met the Morse Code requirement. One thing I have learned since then is that deafness is not binary. That is, there a continuum of conditions, not just deaf or not deaf.

    Back in those days some hams had negotiated with the telephone companies so that we could get used Teletype machines when they were coming out of service. The cost was quite minimal, but you had to sign a big contract saying you would not use if for business nor sell it.

    As I understand the history, W6NRM became active in RTTY, then some of his deaf friends saw his setup and someone said Hey, we could use that. So he invented the modem used for the deaf TTY system

    [1] Note: He did not invent the teleprinter.
  6. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    As I recall, the best a doctor's note would do was to get you out of a higher speed code test. 5 WPM was still the minimum, regardless of legitimate disability.

    There have also been hams who were both deaf and blind. As Glen says - copied code with their fingers, and I've heard of people using different methods to record what they copied.
  7. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not exactly.

    There was never a time (in the USA) when a doctor's note could be used to avoid the 5 wpm test.

    Here's the history:

    Until 1990, all US amateurs had to pass the code test(s) for the license. No exceptions. And the Technician did not lose its code test until 1991.

    However, various accomodations could be made, and were. For example:

    - Deaf amateurs could receive with a flashing light, or through vibrations felt.
    - Amateurs with some hearing could use very high or low tones, very high volume, etc.
    - Blind amateurs could use a Braillewriter, or speak the message as it was received.
    - Paralyzed amateurs could speak the message too. Some would send by means of a "sip and puff" system.

    Many amateurs with all sorts of disabilities passed the tests using various accomodations.

    In 1990, FCC created "medical waivers" for the 13 and 20 wpm code tests. The 5 wpm code test could not be waivered because of the ITU-R treaty. All it took to get a waiver was a note from a doctor. But the 5 wpm test was still required.

    Not exactly. All the doctor's note did was to make it easier for folks to upgrade to General, Advanced and Extra after 1990. Medical waivers disappeared in 2000 after all code tests went to 5 wpm.

    The doctor's note didn't have to say that a person couldn't pass the test. All it had to say was that the person would take "longer than average" to learn the code well enough to pass the 13 or 20 wpm test. No specific reason was needed, nor did the issue have to be permanent.
  8. WA7DU

    WA7DU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Fortunately, the FCC's authority and influence is limited. Not only has Morse enjoyed a revival in amateur radio, it has evolved into a valuable tool for the blind and the deaf. Tactile Morse. Can't see? Can't hear? Learn Tactile Morse.
  9. WY5V

    WY5V Ham Member QRZ Page

    I once administered 20 WPM test to a profoundly deaf applicant. He had a little box with an LED that flashed with sound. He placed it beside the tape player. I sat there in awe of the guy as he had 100 percent copy of the entire test. I told him he didn't even have to take the written test but he did that anyway and passed with 100 percent.

    We had to be vewy, vewy quiet.
  10. N4UFO

    N4UFO Ham Member QRZ Page

    I once administered a 5 WPM morse receiving exam to a gentleman who was epileptic, by holding up flash cards with the 'dot dash' representation of individual letters displayed on them. I showed the cards at a constant rate that equated to five words per minute, which was 25 characters per minute. The stated reason for the accommodation was that in trying to study morse code with audio tapes, he repeatedly had grand mal seizures as a result of listening to the audio tones over a period of time. It was assumed that flashing lights would do the same thing (if not be worse) and the only was he could safely study the morse code was to do it learning the dot dash representations. That's the way he learned it, so that's the way we tested it.

    He had a doctor's letter outlining his condition and requesting an accommodation. However several misinformed hams in the area (one a state police investigator of all things) kept insisting we were going to lose our licenses for agreeing to administer that test. Apparently, they thought that his complaint was not legitimate and had duped his doctor into writing the letter. But that was not out concern... the instructions from the ARRL VEC were quite clear. It was not within the perview or either VEs or the VEC to question a doctor's letter as to legitimacy of medical limitations and since there was no exemption for the 5 WPM test, that some type of reasonable accommodation HAD to be made. When we told the VEC of our plan, they said that it was perfectly fine; it demonstrated a comprehension of the morse code at the required speed and that was all that was necessary. If there was any 'cheating' or illegitimacy involving the acquisition of the doctor's letter, it was up the FCC to make a determination at some later point, not us. And if memory serves, this was even the case if it was believed that the letter itself was faked. We were supposed to assume it was legitimate, proceed accordingly and allow the FCC to take care of the matter. We were Volunteer Examiners, not enforcement agents.

    That said... there were a lot of people that cried out like Chicken Little that cheating would become rampant because of code waivers and accommodations. I had news for them. I sat for my General Class exam at a quarterly 'FCC field exam' held in a university hospital auditorium. There were two FCC representatives and scores of examinees. The code was administered to the entire group from a large reel to reel tape machine with speakers from up on the stage. (The acoustics were horrendous with lots of echo; somehow managed to pass.) Then they passed out written exams and went to a table at the back of the room to grade them and answer questions. Well, while they were picking nits over the questions asked by a line of examinees and not paying attention to the rest of the room, I saw guys around the auditorium pulling out their license manuals from under their seats, looking up answers, guys looking at other's tests and so on. Trust me... while the situation was at the complete other end of the spectrum when I went to the Dallas field office to take my Advanced exam, cheating within the FCC examination system DID happen.

    I know it seems like I have run askew of the topic, but every time the subject of code waivers and accommodations used to come up, some would immediately equate it to cheating. But the system was an attempt to allow people access to the hobby of amateur radio that was being prevented by a examination system meant to ensure integrity in the hobby, not punish the unfortunate and dispossess them of opportunity. Cheating will always be with us... Both honor and integrity are a personal choice and it cannot be codified into existence with rules & regulations or tested by examination. C.S. Lewis once said, 'Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.'

    73, Kevin N4UFO
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2015

Share This Page