Accessibility Evaluation of Icom IC-7000 by M0AID – April 2010.
I had been looking forward to reviewing the IC-7000 for use by a blind operator. The radio is small, and can be regarded as being a mobile or portable transceiver. The main aspects of the IC-7000 are, the 160m to 70cm coverage, the multi-mode capability on all bands, and the 100 watt output in such a small package.
The radio is similar in size to the IC-703 and IC-706, but the interesting potential for a blind operator is the inclusion of a keypad on the microphone. This gives the operator the ability to enter a frequency, and goes some way to making up for the small physical size and sparse number of controls on the front panel.
The IC-7000 comes with a detachable front panel. The microphone and headphones plug into this panel, and it clips securely onto the body of the transceiver. The radio does not have an internal ATU, and the various tuning buttons on the front panel and microphone require a suitable external tuning unit. There are two SO239 antenna sockets at the rear of the radio, one for HF and one for VHF/UHF.
I initially found I had difficulty using some of the radio’s controls. The buttons on the front panel of the IC-7000 are very sleek and almost flush with the surrounding surface. After several days of use I became accustomed to this, but it is easy to unintentionally press the wrong button. I found the Function buttons, F1 to F4, along the base of the display, very hard to differentiate, but as these are virtually unusable on accessibility grounds, I tended to avoid these.
Icom have shipped the IC-7000 with a voice synthesizer fitted as standard. A press of the readout button speaks the received signal strength, frequency, and mode. The mode button can also be set-up to announce the mode as it is selected. With this limited spoken output, a blind operator relies on other audio cues, and needs dedicated controls for frequently used functions. With a radio of this size, the addition of a useable microphone keypad becomes essential.
Using just the front panel, I could control the audio volume, and the Squelch and RF gain are on a shared knob. I could alter the band Pass filtering with two concentric knobs, but the same controls are also shared for RIT and Memory Chanel selection, and I found I could not reliably use these.
Again from the front panel, I could select the Mode, and use the Pre-Amp, Attenuator, Noise Blanker, Noise Reduction, and Notch Filter. The front panel controls also allowed me to activate the voice chip and Frequency Lock, and step through the bands. The VFO itself is a good size, and fast tuning steps can be engaged.
As previously mentioned, the IC-7000 is shipped with a good sized keypad on the microphone. This usefully duplicates some of the controls on the front panel, such as the voice output and mode, but mainly offers additional controls. Of great importance is the inclusion of a good sized numeric keypad. This allows direct frequency input, and uses Icom’s stacking system for quickly moving to a previous frequency within a band.
In addition to the voice output, mode, and numeric keypad, there are buttons to toggle IF filters, tune the external ATU, and operate the memory channels. Two buttons step up and down in 50hz increments, or in 1 Khz steps if fast tuning is engaged.
The microphone also boasts two programmable buttons. In their default state they are Quick Memory Write and Quick Memory Recall. These simple functions are the only memories that can be sensibly used by a blind operator. I conclude the standard memory channels are not accessible.
With a modern radio of this size and complexity, it is inevitable many of the more advanced features will need to be set-up in the menu system. In the case of the IC-7000, the limitations of the voice chip means a blind operator will certainly need initial sighted assistance. Of more concern, is the potential need for on-going sighted help. For instance, I found power adjustment required use of the menu system. Whilst it is eminently possible to change the power, it is dependent on the operator memorising a sequence of steps or referring to notes .
To change power, a blind operator will need to use this sequence. press the AF control momentarily and hear a short beep. Press Function key 1. This highlights the last option on the menu list, so holding down F1 for a while will move back to the first entry. Hopefully, the Power option is selected. At this point, there is no audio indication of the current power level. Turn the VFO knob anti-clockwise at least two turns. This will set the power to its minimum level. From this point, every half clockwise turn of the VFO will increase power by approximately 25%. Two full clockwise turns will give full power. The final step is to momentarily press the AF control twice, giving one short beep, followed by a longer beep. If there is any deviation in this sequence, other important parameters can be accidentally changed, potentially putting the radio into an unusable state!
Other areas of difficulty are most notably in using the Split function. In its default state, Split can only be invoked through the inaccessible menu. It is possible to allocate Split commands to the two programmable buttons of the microphone, but the Quick Memory commands would then be lost.
In its basic operation, the IC-7000 can be used by a blind operator. The radio is more accessible than the IC-703 or IC-706, because of the microphone keypad. I have reservations over the difficulty in performing tasks such as changing power and operating in Split mode. The lack of memory channel accessibility could compromise repetitive VHF repeater use. Commonly used controls such as RIT, Compression, Mic Gain, and AGC, all require use of the menu.
In summary, this radio can be used by a blind amateur, but independentchanging of common functions are not possible. Unfortunately, with the limited amount of information spoken by the synthesizer, there are just not enough dedicated controls to allow a blind person independent use of the IC-7000.
Kelvin Marsh M0AID
Following the posting of my review on the RAIBC reflector, I received the following useful message:
Liked your review, but there is also one other useful attribute to this little radio,
it is the ability to add a television or monitor screen via its video output which
could be considered useful to a partially sighted person.
I use this facility and use a 9” wide screen television to make viewing the screen
Hope you don’t mind me adding my pennyworth.