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Visually Impaired & Interested In Becoming A Ham

Discussion in 'Becoming an Amateur Radio Operator/Upgrading Privi' started by KN4CHK, Jun 28, 2013.

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  1. KN4CHK

    KN4CHK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello everyone. I am curious about amateur radio. My wife is a Red Cross volunteer and she was talking about how communications are very important in times of trouble. I am legally blind, live in an apartment, and live on a fixed income. I see the Technician test is where I start, but where can I get the training? I can not read a normal small print book. I use my iPad for reading. What does it cost to get started in Ham radio? I can not put up an outside antenna so is a handheld a good choice for me? The goal here is to have fun as a hobby on the cheap and to help in an emergency if I can. I went with my wife today on a fire call for the Red Cross and saw how important radio communication was because the power was cut off to keep the house fire from spreading and cell phone reception was bad from being in a valley in the mountains. Thank you for the help.
  2. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Welcome, and I think ham radio has a lot for you.

    First of all, let me direct you to Handihams. Many of the members of Handihams are visually impaired. The organization has a variety of training materials, including audio books. They offer daily nets where licensed hams from all over the world can meet and exchange information. These nets are accessible from the Internet as well as via radio. The links on this page will let you listen into the daily net:

    Handihams also has regular training sessions at the Courage Center camp here in Minnesota for all of the different levels of ham radio license. I don't know if they are still doing it, but they also had classes at their center in southern California. Many ham clubs have their own training classes. I put the training materials for the class I teach up on a Google Drive some time ago. You're welcome to download them if you like: You'll find a set of Powerpoints for our classes, study guides from many other sources, and a set of videos from YouTube that I use in the class. This is all stuff that I've gathered over time.

    As for what kind of station you can put together - that will depend a lot on your location. You can use EchoLink over the Internet to work repeaters all over the world for free. That isn't the same as having your own radio, and not very useful for emergencies, but it can be a lot of fun, particularly if you find the big nets that meet there regularly and join in. As a Technician licensee, you would have full privileges on VHF and UHF, and some pretty limited HF (shortwave) privileges. If you learn the Morse Code in addition to earning your Tech license, you could use the Technician Morse privileges, which are quite substantial, and capable of worldwide communications under good conditions.

    Outside antenna restrictions may limit your options. There are 'stealth' antennas that work well - you may be able to put a full sized antenna in your attic crawlspace, or disguise an antenna as something else on a balcony or patio that will at least let you get on the air. On VHF and UHF, depending on where you are, you may enjoy using the local FM repeaters, and those can usually be accessed from a small indoor antenna. I know one legally blind individual who is heavily involved with emergency communications.

    Cost depends on what you want to do and what you can do. I do not recommend starting out with a handheld radio unless you live in an area with a huge amount of VHF/UHF activity, and it's a little hard to guess what is in your area without talking to some of your local hams. I'd suggest finding a local ham radio club and see if one of their members can help you figure this one out. Generally, the larger the city, the more likely you are to have local hams on the air that you can talk to on VHF or UHF, but it varies all over. Some smaller towns have very active groups, some huge cities have almost none. HF radio has the advantage that wider area coverage makes it easier to find other people to talk to pretty much around the clock. But HF has it's own challenges, particularly for apartment dwellers with no outside antenna prospects. Handihams offers two HF stations that can be remotely operated via the Internet by hams with General or higher class licenses, and there are other groups that offer this, as well. There is also nothing to prevent you from establishing your own remotely controlled station, if you can find a place to put it.
  3. KN4CHK

    KN4CHK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you for all the great help. I will contact HandiHams and see what we can work out. I also found my local club but I did not find contact info other than local meeting time. The site does not seem very active. is my local club. Living in an apartment, what would be a realistic startup cost for gear to get on the air? I live on the bottom floor, no balcony, brick outside walls, no close tree out of a window. Maybe a handheld with an external mag mount antenna? What are some more options?
  4. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    OK, that gives me a little more information to go with.

    I used the callsign of the club president from the website you gave me and plugged it into a repeater search engine at - I came up with a list of 28 repeaters that should cover Lynchburg.

    Now, the presence of repeaters does not always imply the presence of real activity. However, I think I would surprised if there wasn't some there. Some of the area repeaters are tied together, to give very wide area coverage - including some mountaintop repeaters with coverage down into North Carolina. This is a repeater club in the area: It looks like they had some successful license classes in February. It looks like they have a daily net, too, and when it's working, an IRLP node so it can be linked to other repeaters around the world.

    So, I think there's a good chance that as a Technician, you would be able to enjoy some ham radio, particularly if you can get into one of these linked repeaters.

    The lack of any outdoor space is not helpful. Fortunately, a full-sized antenna for two meters is only 38" long and for UHF, about 12 ". The brick walls may well block the signals at those higher frequencies, though. Hopefully, you have one or more windows facing in the direction of the mountains to your west. That may be enough to allow your radio signals to make it out of the building and up to one of the high level repeaters on the mountain. HF work might be more challenging. I know one ham here who loads up the rain gutters on his condo as an antenna, and does quite well.

    Cost depends on what you're trying to do. I would not recommend a handheld unless one of the local radio club members tries it from inside your condo and finds that it works OK. I would recommend a dual band VHF/UHF radio because you have quite a few repeaters on the area on both bands, and UHF just might work better for you than VHF - the main linked repeater looks like it's on UHF. With a mobile unit, you will need a good power supply, and of course, an antenna. I would budget around $500 for the whole thing. It is possible to find all of these things used. I don't recommend EBay - the for sale ads here on and on and are usually pretty safe bets. Major dealers also carry used gear they've taken in trade. Ham radio equipment usually holds its value very well, though, so don't expect huge savings on current model radios.
  5. KF5FEI

    KF5FEI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Handiham should be able to hook you up. They have audio resources available for learning the material and their web presence is blind-accessible. They also offer a radio camp, but I couldn't easily find any info on the age limitiations, etc...
  6. KN4CHK

    KN4CHK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here is a general pic from a few months a go. No gutters and no easy place to hide the antenna. DOH
  7. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The picture apparently didn't make it. Are you allowed a flag anywhere?
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