Amateur Radio, or Ham Radio, is an enriching hobby that provides a window to the world for people with mobility problems, the blind, deaf, or those with limited means of communication.
Amateur radio operators, or "Hams," use radios to communicate with other users - whether they are around the corner or around the world. Amateur radio encompasses a wide variety of activities all of which are centered around an interest in radio and communications. The appeal of Amateur Radio is the ability to communicate with others across the country, around the globe, and even with astronauts on space missions.
In most countries there are no age or citizenship restrictions to becoming a ham radio operator. Morse code is also no longer a requirement to obtaining your Amateur Radio licence in many countries.
In the U.S.
If you are new to HAM Radio, or just wish to find out more about it, the website at www.arrl.org/new-to-ham-radio provides a lot of useful information for newbies and experienced Amateur Radio operators.
The Courage Center Handiham System provides tools for people with disabilities to learn Amateur Radio and technology skills, and to earn their Amateur Radio licenses. Handiham helps persons with any combination of physical and sensory disabilities by providing tools, technology and education to become effective amateur operators. People with disabilities who join their program quickly learn about new technologies, including assistive technologies that will help them in other aspects of their lives, not just amateur radio. Visit www.handiham.org/drupal2/ for further information.
In the U.K.
The license system has 3 tiers, the Foundation license, the Intermediate and the Advanced. The foundation is an introduction to amateur radio and when completed you will be able to get a license, a callsign and then transmit and enjoy radio. If you are housebound the exam can be taken at your home. If you are visually impaired the exam can be read to you. Visit www.raibc.org.uk/ for further information.
Radio Amateurs of Canada is a not-for-profit membership association with headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It is a national organization, representing the interests of amateur radio all across Canada. Visit www.rac.ca for further information.
CNIB Amateur Radio Program - CNIB provides community based support to help Canadians who are blind or partially sighted achieve their goals and increase their independence. Their Amateur Radio program has grown to nearly 500 members across Canada, from teens to professionals, parents and retirees. The Amateur Radio program provides: assistance in obtaining equipment, helps to train new operators and helps prepare operators to pass the required Radio License exams - www.cnib.ca/en/living/learning-leisure/amateur-radio/Pages/default.aspx
October 2005 saw the introduction of the new standard grade syllabus in Australia and it is much easier than the old novice license. It is now in line with the world standard for the middle grade licence and you can use your standard grade licence in many countries that have reciprocal licensing with Australia. There are several radio clubs around Australia offering training for the standard licence and the charges can vary from club to club from as little as $10.00. You will also need to purchase some support technical reference information such as the ARRL handbook or the Radio Theory handbook. You can study for the Standard Licence Multi-Media Course with the Radio and Electronics School in the comfort of your own home. This course is supplied on two CD ROMS, and is an easy short course which lasts from 4 to 5 weeks duration. WIA Assessors are supported by Nominated Assessors and are responsible for undertaking Special Assessments for candidates with a disability or in remote areas. Visit www.wia.org.au/licenses/standard/about/ for further information. The WIA is also able to offer assessments for vision impaired candidates. A vision impaired person wishing to be assessed must advise a WIA Assessor or Learning Organiser that they wish to be assessed for an Amateur Radio Examination.
HAM Radio and Computer Interfaces:
Today nearly all modern transceivers can be connected to a computer which means you can use various available software to control your radio including sending and receiving pictures and data.
- HamSphere - Turn your computer into a Ham Radio station - No extra hardware needed, just your PC, a microphone, speakers and you are ready to call CQ on the virtual Ham Radio bands. Once you have installed this Ham Radio Software you will be able to communicate with thousands of Amateur Radio operators and radio enthusiasts from over 200 countries around the world. You can even use it without a Ham Radio License - www.hamsphere.com/register.php
- Ham Radio Deluxe - (HRD) is an integrated suite of software products for amateur radio. The five modules in the suite provide rig control, logging, digital communications, satellite tracking, and rotator control. Ham Radio Deluxe 5.1 enables you to control your transceiver using your computer. You can also operate PSK via Ham Radio Deluxe as well. Download from www.tetraplegicliving.com
- EchoLink(R) Software - Allows licensed Amateur Radio stations to communicate with each another over the Internet, using streaming audio technology. The program allows worldwide connections to be made between stations, or from computer to station, greatly enhancing Amateur Radio's communications capabilities. The program runs on Microsoft Windows and is free of charge - www.echolink.org
In addition there are a great deal of other programs, addons, plugins and software online that allow you to connect your Amateur Radio to a computer. A Google search for what you require will generally bring up the choices available to suit your needs.
Difference between Amateur Radio and CB Radio:
There are so many differences between Citizens Band (CB) and Amateur Radio it would be impossible to list them all in a simple answer. CB or Citizens Band Radio Service is where the FCC allows untrained and unlicensed individuals to use low-powered two-way radios radios for personal or business use. CB radios are limited in power output and frequencies. Ham Radio (officially called the Amateur Radio Service) is where people who have studied two-way radios, antennas and US and international regulations - and who have passed an examination (and paid a fee) are allowed to communicate with other radio hams around the world. This is an extremely simplified explanation, for further details you will need to search online or read up on both forms of communication.
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If you are involved with, or know of other useful HAM Radio resources for persons with disabilities please contact us so we can add to the list.