History of IDEAL Group, Inc. and its Subsidiary Companies
Updated on January 1, 2017
When Darren Kall joined AT&T Bell Labs in 1988, he discovered that designing accessible products and services was not a unified effort across the company. While AT&T had advisory groups, they were primarily focused on accessibility policy, not technology. In 1989, In support of solving this problem. Darren formed AT&T’s Employee Technical Advisory Panel (ETAP).
In 1990, AT&T acquired NCR Corporation and appointed Steve Jacobs to Chair AT&T Bell Lab’s Project Freedom. From 1992-1993 Project Freedom pioneered the use of interactive video technology for sign-language communications over telephone lines (dual ISDNs). This technology, now in the mainstream, is referred to as Video Relay Services (VRS).
- Project Freedom Video: First ASL Communication Over Telephones. This video also contains historical footage of Alexander Graham Bell.
Although a competitor, Sprint used Project Freedom’s Vistium Video System for their first VRS pilot test in Texas.
- Here is a 1995 flyer announcing the pilot test:
- GA-SK Newsletter article about Sprint’s pilot test:
- Photo of Reid Huntt (Chairman of the FCC at that time) and Steve Jacobs, Chairman, AT&T Project Freedom demonstrating their video system to FCC Commissioners.
Also in 1990, Darren organized a small group of AT&T employees, many of whom were engineers with disabilities, interested in promoting the hiring of core-competent individuals with disabilities. Founding members of the group included Betsy Dixon, Manager, Workforce Diversity and Inclusion at AT&T, Jim Kutsch, VP, Computing & Network Services at AT&T Universal Card Services, and Steve Jacobs, Chairman, AT&T Project Freedom.
In 1991, Individuals with Disabilities Enabling Advocacy Link (IDEAL) was established at AT&T, as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), New Jersey corporation. IDEAL’s business objective was to facilitate and support the hiring of core-competent individuals with disabilities at AT&T.
In 1992, Jacobs was invited to sit on AT&T’s Consumer Advisory Panel on Disability Issues (CAPDI).
In September of 1995 AT&T announced that it was tri-vesting and restructuring into three separate companies: a services company retaining the AT&T name; a products and systems company (later named Lucent Technologies) and a computer company (which reassumed the NCR name). Lucent was spun off from AT&T in October 1996 and NCR in December of 1996. Between January, 1996 and July, 1999, Jacobs carried on the work of IDEAL at AT&T as part of NCR Corporation.
In August 1999, IDEAL at AT&T was reincorporated as a not for profit corporation under the name “IDEAL at NCR.” IDEAL at NCR focused on working with NCR engineers to design and develop accessible financial and retail products and services which included point-of-sale devices, automated teller machines, public-facing kiosks and many other types of interactive transaction machines.
At the end of December, 2002, Jacobs retired from NCR and was granted permission to spin-off IDEAL at NCR Corporation into IDEAL Group, Inc., a privately-held, for-profit, Ohio corporation. http://tinyurl.com/hvhv8ye
IDEAL Group currently 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 tens of thousands of universities around the world to recognize, convert, and enable the editing of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) documents into accessible formats in support of students with print disabilities. Converted formats include LaTeX, MathML, Human Readable TeX, and Word XML. You Tube Videos of InftyReader in Action
- 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 more than 21 million installations. Apps4Android apps are installed on the devices of 82 wireless manufacturers, and distributed by 568 wireless service providers in 214 countries.
- Knowledge Discovery Solutions, Inc.
Established in 2014, Knowledge Discovery Solutions, a joint venture company of IDEAL Group, Inc. and Shaping Tomorrow, 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 feel free to email Steve Jacobs.