Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Accessible HD Radio

Digital radio broadcasting has been a slowly emerging technology over the past several years. This technology, similarly to its television counterpart, promises to deliver richer sound as well as affording stations the opportunity to multiplex programming. Multiplexing means that a station can transmit multiple audio streams on their parent frequency. Take, for example, the local NPR affiliate here in Baltimore. In addition to their primary programming on the standard FM channel, 88.1MHz, they also transmit, on one of their subchannels, the BBC World Service.

Most digital radios, commonly referred to as HD radios, rely on a visual display to identify the frequency and any “HD” subchannel being received. Most of these radios, as with many consumer electronics devices, are not natively accessible to blind users. Enter the Dice Electronics ITR100A. This tabletop style radio provides spoken feedback, in an easy to understand female voice, for all functions and commands.

There are a minimal number of controls on the ITR100A. Buttons for Power, Mode (AM/FM/Auxiliary), preset channels 1-6, and a dedicated Radio Reading Service scan button, along with knobs for changing the volume and active channel are all the necessary controls to operate the unit.

When turned on, turning the frequency selection control one or two clicks will move the radio .2HKz, or, if an HD channel is being received, one subchannel.

Repeatedly turning this knob will instruct the radio to “seek”, skipping frequencies where it does not find a strong signal. If the tuning knob is not touched for approximately two seconds, the radio will interrupt the program to announce the frequency, the HD subchannel if present, and if provided by the HD broadcast, the call letters of the active station.

Pressing any of the buttons on the radio will yield an announcement as to the action taken. For example. Pressing preset 1, the radio announces that it is switching to preset 1, followed by frequency information for that subchannel. Holding down a preset for about 2 seconds will save the active channel in the memory, and an announcement to that effect will be spoken.

Speech is also provided to set both the clock, and the alarm. When the alarm goes off, the radio will announce the time and begin playing the active radio station.

This radio also includes the capability to receive Radio Reading Service broadcasts. Pressing the RRS scan button will begin scanning the active band, AM or FM, for a Radio Reading Service signal. Note that this feature may require you to register our radio’s serial number with the RRS, if this is the case, hold down the RRS button for 2wo seconds and the serial number will be spoken.

For those interested in exploring the world of digital radio, the Dice ITR100A is an accessible, easy-to-use, radio that will get you started.

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