In 1984, an older blind school student riding with me on the school bus demonstrated amateur radio. He had a small handheld radio he could use to talk with other people all over Southern Arizona. This same friend was also heavily interested in computer technology. After learning about and seeing for myself all the other things I could do with amateur radio, I was hooked, earned my amateur radio licenses and my life changed forever! I passed my Novice Class amateur radio exam on my birthday (August 11) in 1985, and passed my Extra Class exam in March of 1986! In less than eight months I had made it to the top of the amateur radio licensing structure, passing four written theory exams and demonstrating my abilities to comprehend the Morse Code at twenty words per minute. I was also launching myself in to an ongoing life adventure!
The hard work involved in studying and passing the Morse Code and written theory exams served to build my character and add discipline and organization to my mind. It also cultivated my interests in current events, geography, politics and science. My father spent several hours each day reading the study manual to me, asking me the questions found at the end of each chapter in the book and checking my answers for correctness, reading the supplied explanation when I gave an incorrect answer. Participation in local amateur radio classes, radio clubs and public service events enabled me to interact with others, almost exclusively adults, on a regular basis, thus serving to further develop my social skills.
As I conversed with ham radio operators around the world, I became interested in geography, history and politics. As I contacted someone in a new country, mom and I would research that country’s climate, culture, government, location, religion and more. It caused me to ask more questions and thus acquire more knowledge. I logged all my contacts on cassette and later using a computer program. This cycle of talking (using Morse Code or voice) and logging enhanced my abilities to act efficiently, multitask and organize information. Copying Morse Code by ear served to enhance my listening skills.
Participating in face to face settings such as club meetings, emergency communications drills, Field Days, hamfests and public service events enhanced my social skills by exposing me to a diverse group of people from all walks of life. I learned how to get along with others and how to act courteously and professionally. My involvement with amateur radio at an early age helped to show me that, despite blindness, I can contribute to and fully participate in society.
During my twenty years of participation in amateur radio, I have enjoyed the following adventures:
- Camping out in the mountains with fellow hams to participate in annual Amateur Radio Field Day operations.
- Helping a fellow ham during a contest with the setup of an antenna in rainy and windy conditions.
- Running in to a 3 foot tall yellow pole at the bottom of a pedestrian bridge while talking to a ham friend across town on the radio.
- Hanging out at a friend’s house contacting hundreds of other ham operators around the world in a 48 hour contest.
- Riding along with a bicycle maintenance crew assisting with communications during a bike-a-thon.
- Attending breakfasts, radio club meetings and other events, meeting lots of interesting people in the process.
Amateur radio has been a huge contributor to the success I now enjoy and to that I hope to enjoy in the future. It was part of the foundation of experience and knowledge I gained while growing up. I highly recommend this hobby for all blind people, even those who do not have a technical background and just want to talk on the radio and meet people. Please comment or write a personal message if I can help with additional information about amateur radio and how you can become involved.