[wisconsin] Fw: ] Vision Free HD Radio:
shyann46 at sbcglobal.net
Thu Sep 16 16:49:54 GMT 2010
Hope it's okay to send this to the Wisconsin list.
Vision Free HD Radio:
A Radio Designed with the Blind in Mind
Links added in by Dan Thompson where needed.
How many times, as a person who is blind or has low vision, have you thought
to yourself, "If only [product X or Y] would have thought to add a speech
chip.or a rotating knob.or buttons you can feel?" As savvy consumers of
electronics, we recognize that products that are often unusable by those of
us unable to see digital displays could have been remedied if, at the design
stage, a few simple, accessible features had been considered.
If asked, most of us could help companies save time and money by letting
them know up front which desirable features would render their devices
"must-have" products for those of us with limited or no vision.
In 2008, the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS)
had such an opportunity when both Dice Electronics and Best Buy approached
them to ask, essentially: "What design features would prompt you to
recommend a radio to your constituents?" The IAAIS is the organization of
professionals working in radio reading service facilities throughout the
United States and other countries. These facilities broadcast readings and
information via radio signals, cable TV channels, telephone services, and
the Internet. Historically, specially tuned radio receivers have been
distributed to eligible listeners (i.e., those unable to read conventional
print due to visual, physical, or learning disability). The organization
represents, in other words, a substantial radio market for the company
producing the user-friendliest product.
The IAAIS responded to the challenge by assembling a task force to develop
standards for an accessible HD radio. It warrants mentioning here that it
was to the task force's dismay that never before had such standards been
requested or established for a particular electronic device.
The committee consisted of six people, four blind, two sighted, all of whom
are professionals connected with radio reading services and/or IAAIS. For
those of us on the committee who happen to be blind, developing the
standards was like playing an extraordinary game of pretend, gathering all
of those features we loved best on our favorite gadgets over the decades
into one list, and combining them into one imaginary product. The Standards
for Accessible HD Radios (StAR) project published its findings in a report,
which is available for free download from the IAAIS website.
What were the details on our wish list for the perfect radio? I won't go
into elaborate detail here, but the standards include common-sense basics,
such as buttons easily discerned by touch, knobs that rotate and provide
tactile feedback, audio equivalents of onscreen information, and a display
with sufficient font size and contrast to be usable to people with low
Although Best Buy wanted guidelines for a long-term strategy, Dice
Electronics immediately stepped up to the plate with an already-existing
radio that could be rebuilt with access in mind. A prototype of that
company's response to the IAAIS StAR report was on display at the 2009
Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and earned a Stevie Wonder Wonder
Vision Award for being a product accessible to all.
The Vision Free HD radio from Dice Electronics became available for purchase
in June 2010, so the time has come to examine this unique product to see how
closely its design meets the standards set forth in the IAAIS Star report.
Description Based on the Dice Electronics ITR-100, the Vision Free is a
tabletop radio, measuring 5.5 by 9.75 by 5.25 inches. All controls are on
the front of the unit, and all jacks and the power cord are on the back. It
has both AM and FM antennas. Controls on the front include 10 push buttons
and two rotating knobs. The radio receives AM; FM; HD 1, 2, and 3; and HD
radio reading service signals, where available. It has a clock and an alarm,
and up to six AM and six FM stations can be preserved as "presets"
for immediate access. Unless otherwise indicated, all accessible features
described in this article were drawn directly from the StAR guidelines.
Turn the Radio On From the moment the radio is turned on, all controls on
the Vision Free radio provide audible feedback. The left side of the front
panel is the speaker grill, and the right side from left to right includes
10 push buttons, a small rotating knob at the left for volume control, and a
much larger rotating knob on the right for seeking stations and making menu
selections. The 10 buttons are arranged in four rows, with one button on the
top row, two buttons on the second, four on the third, and three on the
fourth. Although this may sound somewhat odd from the outset, the rationale
behind this arrangement of controls is logical and intuitive. The radio's
display is similarly accessible for those with varying levels of vision. It
employs an approximately 18-point font and utilizes a light blue against a
darker purple background.
The uppermost button on the radio is the power button. When pressed, a clear
female voice announces "power on" and the radio is immediately on. If the
time has not already been set, a request to "please set the time"
immediately follows. Pressed again, the same voice announces "power off" and
the radio shuts off.
If an alarm has been set, the time of the alarm set is also announced at
The two buttons on the second row are "mode" and "alarm." The first three
buttons in the third row and the three in the bottom row are all for station
presets. The extra button in row 3, fourth button from the left, stands
alone and is a dedicated radio reading service button. If no HD radio
reading service signal is available, pressing this button will evoke the
announcement "RRS HD not available," letting you know that there is not a
digital radio reading service in your area.
Pressing the mode button repeatedly, one hears the following choices: AM,
FM, and auxiliary. If AM or FM is pressed, the large rotating knob can be
used to seek stations.
A discernible click is felt with each turn of the knob, increasing or
decreasing by 0.2 MHz per step in FM or 10 kHz per step in AM mode. As each
station is located, the radio both announces and displays the frequency and
call letters if available.
Some HD stations multicast up to three signals. If this is the case, the
Vision Free radio's audio feedback announces each of these signals as the
seek knob is turned.
Pressing the seek knob will provide an audio and visual station
identification. Say, for example, the last station played was 91.7 WVXU.
When the radio is turned on again, the announcement "power on" will be
followed by the audio information "FM 91.7 WVXU."
This particular station is an HD station, so the announcement "HD acquired"
will also be heard. To find out if there is a second HD signal available for
this station, turning the seek knob one step clockwise will provide the
audio and visual information:
HD 2 91.7 WVXU.
To preset a station, simply press and hold one of the six preset buttons and
the radio will announce that the preset is established. To return to a
station later, press and quickly release the assigned preset button and the
station will be selected.
The seek knob is also used to set the time and alarm. To set an alarm, for
instance, the "alarm" button is pressed and held until a voice prompt is
heard to select the alarm mode. Choices are AM, FM, and beep. To hear the
choices, the seek knob is slowly turned, with each click announcing one of
the three choices. When the desired choice is heard, pressing the seek knob
selects it, and the selection is confirmed with both audio and visual
feedback. Selecting the hour, minute, and a.m. or p.m. is accomplished in
the same way. Turning the knob slowly, one hears one-hour increments, with
the number increasing with a clockwise turn and decreasing with a
When the desired selection is heard, a press of the seek knob confirms the
Audio feedback accompanies every step.
The sound quality of the Vision Free radio is excellent. With two tiny
exceptions, every feature the radio offers was designed in compliance with
the StAR guidelines.
The guidelines suggest that headphone jacks be placed on the front of a unit
for easy access, and that the rotating knobs have an "end point" rather than
spinning indefinitely. The headphone jack on this radio is located on the
back. It is, however, extremely easy to locate. The volume knob has a
definite "end point" at left and right, but the seek knob does not. Because
the unit announces the frequency of every station as the seek knob is
rotated, however, the "indefinite spin" nature of seek dial is
One bonus feature that does not come from the guidelines and that many users
will applaud is the addition of an auxiliary jack. The mode button offers
AM, FM, and auxiliary. When pressed until auxiliary is heard, any MP3 or
other sound device can be connected to the auxiliary jack and heard through
the Vision Free radio's speaker. In other words, music from your iPod or NLS
books from your compatible book device can be enjoyed through the same
accessible radio on which you listen to your local radio reading service and
other HD radio stations.
Dice Electronics asked, and professionals in the blindness and audio
The result is an accessible radio with great sound, setting an example that
we hope other electronics manufacturers will follow.
The Vision Free radio sells for $249. An additional speaker for stereo sound
costs $49. For more information, visit the Dice Electronics website:
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