Blind Use of Minidisc in Icelandic Journalism
Arnþór Helgason
([email protected])
January 2003

Arnthor Helgason
Arnthor Helgason

My name is Arnthor Helgason. I have a degree in Journalism from the University of Iceland. I was born in 1952 and have been visually impaired from birth. In 1966 I lost my sight completely.

In 1973 I started my work for the Icelandic State Broadcast Service. At that time cassette recorders had reached a reasonable quality level and my twin brother and I were the first to use them for broadcast work in Iceland. In 1981 we came across the Sony TCD-5 and introduced it to the broadcasting field in Iceland. I used my recorder for more than 10 years.

I had gratuated from the University of Iceland in 1980 with a degree in Icelandic and Norwegian literature as well as educational training. In 1997 - 1998 I studied journalism and after I got my diploma I resumed my work for the broadcasting service. Back then many demands were made for manuscripts in which you had to indicate where to cut the tapes. The Minidisc came to me as a gift from heaven.

I bought a Sony MZ-R30 Minidisc recorder and mastered it quite soon. The 3 buttons - Erase, Trackmark and End Search together with the wheel key and enter key made it quite easy to operate the device and edit material.

I have used the recorder for interviews, enviromental recordings and even for recording live performances of music. When recording interviews I prefer the mono-recording as you get less background noise. You also need to consider what kind of microphones you are using. The MZ-R30 has functions which make it possible to set the machine for different types of microphones. It is also quite easy to set the recording level manually. As most of the Sony microphones recommended for MD-recorders do not meet professional requirements I have preferred microphones from Sennheiser, AKG and other pro-audio equipment manufacturers. But to ensure the best quality you have to take the output of the microphones into consideration.

In 1999 I made among other programs a very complicated show where I had to edit 6 hours of material into one hour. At that time I bought a Panasonic MD deck from which I made copies of my original discs. In that way I was able to compile my material into one disc and edit it so that it could be transferred directly onto the broadcasting tapes. It saved a lot of time in the studio.

Since I am now working as the director of the Icelandic Organisation of Disabled I have not done any broadcast work for 2 years. But I use the Minidisc to record meetings and interviews for our magazine. And always I have the dream to continue my radio work in my spare time. I also am a member of a society for Icelandic Folk Music. The performances of the society are now all stored on Minidiscs.

I find the menu-controlled recorders a lot more difficult to operate as they are not made for visually impaired people. My dream is that both portable and stationary recorders would have an output or other method which would make it easier to manipulate them directly with some keys or buttons.

I asked Arnthor how equipment might be improved for visually impared people.

A computer output has been added to some Minidisc equipment in order to make it possible to read the menus from a computer. This means that the blind user could tune the machine in advance. The main thing is that the erase button and manual recording level mode should be set in a way similar to the MZ-R30. By reading the comments on the Sony MZ-B100 I see that a reporter for Voice of America has the same desires.

I suggested that perhaps signature beep tones could be emitted as the menus were navigated, indicating which menu entry was being displayed.

Different tones for the menus would mean that you would have to learn a whole range of new things and you would probably have to carry your own manual along with you. In Europe people are now talking about Design for All, and developers of technical equipment have found that when all functions are placed under menus they exclude at least 15% of the population from using their equipment.

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