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Enabling Ham Radio’s Disabled

Michael J. Runholt, MS CRC, KC0YFV

Handiham lends a helping hand to the physically challenged in the amateur community.

The pontoon slowly motors around the lake. A group of hams gathers around the radio. “CQ, CQ 80 meters this is W0EQO, KC0YFV at the mike, maritime mobiling from Courage North in Lake George, Minnesota, over.” So begins a typical contact at the Handiham Radio Camp sponsored by the Courage Handiham System, a program of the Courage Center. You have probably seen our quarterly ad in QST and wondered what we do.

Handiham helps persons with any combination of physical and sensory disabilities by providing tools, technology and education to become effective amateur operators. “The Courage Center Handiham System provides tools for people with disabilities to learn Amateur Radio and technology, and to earn Amateur Radio licenses.”explains Patt Tice, WA0TDA, Handiham Manager. Ham related services include Radio Camp, accessible VE sessions, daily HF and EchoLink nets, the Courage Handiham members-only Web site, equipment loans, assistance with license renewal and a Kenwood TS-480 remote base station. Handihams also sponsors an ARRL affiliated club Courage Handiham System ARC. Our annual membership is $10 or $100 for a life membership.

The Handiham Web site has a wealth of information. On it you can find information to help you become a ham; a list of ham related books and audio tapes, including audio versions of popular transceiver manuals; links to various call sign and repeater lookup tools; EchoLink keyboard shortcuts; Handiham nets; a link to the NOAA space weather prediction center, and links to the PICONET and Stillwater ARA Web sites. The site also has information on the ARRL, including an ARRL sections list in text format.

Through the Handiham Web site you can also find an explanation of the benefits of membership, a link to the Courage Center, information on how to donate money and equipment to support Handiham programs, lists of Handiham online mailing lists and e-letters, online Handiham audio programs, a photo tour of the Minnesota Radio Camp with a link to the video “See and Hear Radio Camp,” and information on how to volunteer.

Minnesota Radio Camp

Radio Camp is a weeklong residential camp for persons with physical and sensory disabilities. It has five tracks: Technician, General and Amateur Extra class licensing and two operating skills sessions designed to get people who are new to HF on the air. An Extra class seminar allows campers who do not have equipment to operate HF. Free time activities include field trips to local attractions, operating our club station W0EQO, maritime mobiling and radio club meetings.

During the last day of camp a VE session is held. It is physically accessible and includes readers for persons who are blind. I have cerebral palsy. I tried to pass my General on my own three times before finally passing it at Radio Camp. I attend the operating skills class in August of 2009, where I got invaluable on the air practice that will help me in my radio career for years to come. In 2010, the Radio Camp was held in May at Camp Courage in Maple Lake, Minnesota.

Handi Nets

Handihams offers a number of daily and weekly HF and EchoLink nets. Our EchoLink nets meet Monday through Saturday 1100 Central Time (CT) and Wednesday at 1930 CT. The EchoLink nets are available on nodes KA0PQW-R, node 267582; WA0TDA-L, node 302454; N0BVE-R, node 89680, and also on IRLP node 9008 and WIRES system number 1427.

On Mondays we hold Handiham SSB nets on the following schedule:

• 14.265 MHz, 0930-1000 CT in winter and at 1530 UTC in summer

• 28.390 MHz, 1000-1030 CT (1600 UTC in winter)

• 21.442 MHz at 1030-1100 CT in the summer and in the winter at 1630 UTC.

• 7.272 MHz, at 1430-1530 CT. During the summer at 2030 UTC.

• 1.902 MHz, SSB net at 2000 CT nightly except for Tuesdays and Thursdays,

• 7.112 MHz, slow speed CW at 0900-1200 Eastern Time Friday.

Our nets are open to all hams, not just members. Please check in. We would love to have you.

Handiham Member Services

For those who have disabilities, Handihams offers a number of valuable members-only services. On our members-only Web site you can find information about equipment loans, our weekly newsletter, software, help with renewing your license and technical assistance. Our member-only Web site also includes audio files of ARRL license manuals, operating skills materials including Amateur Radio publications and other operating activity information.

We also have a Kenwood TS-480 remote base available for member use. The remote base is our newest service. It is especially helpful for those hams who can’t afford their own equipment or have antenna restrictions. You need to have a Skype name, be registered with Handihams and have a computer with Internet access to use this service.

Handihams also sponsors an ARRL affiliated club, the Courage Handiham System ARC, W0EQO. We meet once a year during Radio Camp and also on the air. We have an e-mail reflector set up where we discuss various topics for upcoming sessions in operating skills at Radio Camp. We offer newsletters, mentoring, license classes and VE testing. One needs to be an ARRL member to join.

Community Support

The support of the amateur community is very important to Handihams. The amateur community can help by promoting Handihams in club programs, donating used equipment and money, becoming an Elmer to a Handiham member and sponsoring a radio camper. Clubs can have Handihams as a program theme.

Handihams has an equipment loan program that loans out donated equipment to members. This program depends on donations of radio equipment from the ham community. The Radio Camp has many fees associated with it such as registration fees, travel costs, exam fees and spending money. To help support our Radio Camp program, clubs can sponsor radio campers. Handihams is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit rehabilitation and resource center.

For more information please contact the Courage Handiham System, 3915 Golden Valley Rd, Golden Valley, MN 55422, 1-800-426-3442.

Acknowledgments: The author wishes to acknowledge Matt Arthur, KA0PQW, Handiham member; Howard Armstrong, KE7KNN, Handiham Net Manager, and Pat Tice, WA0TDA, Handiham Manager, for their assistance in this project.

Michael J. Runholt, KC0YFV, an ARRL member, has held a General class license since 2005. He holds an MS in Vocational Rehabilitation with a Concentration in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. He is also a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. He is a life member of Handihams. He can be reached at 2597 190th Ave, Marshall, MN 56258.


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