In September, 1991, NCR Corporation was acquired by AT&T. NCR was renamed “AT&T Global Information Solutions.” Around that time, a group of AT&T employees (mostly engineers) formed an AT&T New Jersey-based not-for-profit corporation called IDEAL at AT&T. IDEAL was an acronym that represented Individuals with Disabilities Enabling Advocacy Link. One of IDEAL’s objectives was to support the design of AT&T’s products and services.
In late 1991, Steve Jacobs was appointed as chairman of AT&T “Project Freedom.” Members of Project Freedom’s engineering team joined members of AT&T’s Consumer Advisory Panel on Disability Issues (CAPDI) for the purpose of evaluating AT&T products and services to make them as accessible as possible to consumers with disabilities. With their support and cooperation of CAPDI, Project Freedom engineers pioneered the use of interactive video technology for sign-language communications over distances using dual ISDN networks. The resulting services are now referred to as Video Relay Services (VRS). Video Relay Services are a form of Telecommunications Relay Service that enables persons with hearing disabilities who use American Sign Language to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment, rather than through typed text.
In early 1994, Project Freedom’s work was commemorated in a video. The video captured the first two-way “voice telephone” ASL conversation. The conversation took place between students and teachers from the Horace Mann Montessori School in Dayton, Ohio. The video also showcased historical footage of Alexander Graham Bell. Although a competitor, Sprint used Project Freedom’s Vistium Video System hardware and infrastructure to conduct the first VRS pilot test in Texas. Here are a few marketing pieces from that time:
- 1995 flyer announcing the pilot test:
- GA-SK Newsletter article about Sprint’s pilot test:
- Photo of Reid Huntt, FCC Chairman and Steve Jacobs, Project Freedom Chairman, demonstrating VRS to FCC Commissioners:
A restructuring of AT&T took place in 1996, leading to the re-establishment of NCR as a separate company. From January, 1997 through July, 1999, Jacobs carried on IDEAL’s technology work at NCR under the name “IDEAL at NCR Corporation.” The organization continued to operate under IDEAL at AT&T’s charter. In August 1999, NCR reincorporated IDEAL as a NCR not-for-profit corporation under the name “IDEAL at NCR.” From 1999 -2002, IDEAL continued to support the work of NCR in designing and developing financial/retail products and services that were as accessible as reasonably possible. During its rein at NCR, IDEAL’s technical accomplishments were many. Here are a few examples of IDEAL’s high-level projects:
Bush 54th Inauguration Technology Project: Integrated technology into George W. Bush’s inauguration program and guidebook. The project repurposed technology being used by the Israeli military to come up with a method that enables a person who is blind to scan 77 pages of text… with only one pass of a scanner, with 100% accuracy.
- 54th Program Book (See Page 32): http://www.ideal-group.org/initiatives/inauguralprogram.pdf
- 54th Guide Book (See Page 77) http://www.ideal-group.org/initiatives/inauguralguidebook.pdf
- IDEAL at NCR and Intacta Technologies, Inc. Demonstrate New Accessibility Technology
Fifty-Fourth eNaugural.com Ball Webcast:
- Hosted fully-accessible 54th eNaugural.com Ball Webcast:
Smithsonian Institution: Designed, developed, and implemented accessible prototype kiosks for the Smithsonian Institution’s American History Museum.
- Link to showcase: http://americanhistory.si.edu/disabilityrights/index.html
- Photos: http://www.ideal-group.org/initiatives/smithsonian_kiosk_project_photos.htm
President Clinton’s Digital Divide Tour:
- Photo: http://www.ideal-group.org/initiatives/clinton_photo.htm
- Technology Demonstrations:
Vice President Gore’s Digital Talking Book: Published a Digital Talking Book in support of a reception held at the residence of Vice President Gore.
Internet Resource Center for the 53rd Presidential Inauguration
President Clinton’s 53rd Presidential Inauguration: Integrated technology into the 53rd Presidential inaugural program book.
- Inauguration Program Book: http://ideal-group.org/initiatives/53.htm
At the end of December, 2002, Jacobs retired from NCR and was granted permission to spin-off IDEAL at NCR into IDEAL Group, Inc., a privately held, for-profit, Ohio-based corporation. Through the years, while IDEAL Group continued to operate as a separate entity, they formed/acquired additional subsidiary companies… all focused on accommodating the access needs of individuals with disabilities through the use of advanced technology. Among its more recent accomplishments was the development of the first of its kind speech-based, real-time, captioning apps and infrastructures which is now being used by thousands of people around the world. See: IDEAL Captions, uCaption, and Speech2RTT Communicator.
Currently, IDEAL Group serves as the parent of three information and communications technology companies. They are:
- InftyReader Group, Inc.
Established in March, 2007, InftyReader Group offers a sophisticated optical character recognition application that is used by thousands of universities around the world to recognize, convert, and enable the editing of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) educational content (both print and digital) into accessible formats in support of students with print disabilities. Converted formats include LaTeX, MathML, Human Readable TeX, and Word XML. In 2012, IDEAL Group received a White House Champions of Change Award for enhancing the accessibility of STEM curriculum for students with disabilities.
- Apps4Android, Inc.
Established in January, 2009, Apps4Android is a social entrepreneurship company. Apps4Android’s primary objective is to facilitate widespread technological changes that enhance the independence, quality of life, and employability of individuals with disabilities. Apps4Android is now the world’s largest developer of Android applications designed in support of individuals with disabilities, with 25+ million installationsApps4Android apps are installed on the devices of 82 wireless manufacturers and distributed by 568 wireless service providers in 143 countries. In 2017, Apps4Android developed Speech2RTT® Communicator. Speech2RTT® Communicator enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, deaf-blind, and speech-impaired, to communicate with other people, using a standard Android smart phone. It accommodates users in 90+ countries in any of 60+ languages. See: http://speech2rtt.com/.
- Knowledge Discovery Solutions, Inc.
Established in 2014, Knowledge Discovery Solutions http://kds.global, a joint venture company of IDEAL Group, Inc. and Shaping Tomorrow from the United Kingdom. KDS offers knowledge-mining solutions in support of gathering “anticipatory intelligence” to help industry and government agencies identify and act upon emerging opportunities as well as identify the risks associated with those opportunities.
Today, IDEAL Group, along with its subsidiary companies, continues to enhance the independence, quality-of-life, employability, and quality-of-education of hundreds of millions of individuals with disabilities around the world.
For more information about IDEAL Group, or any of its subsidiaries, please contact: