After I left my Freedom Scientific office for the last time in November 2004, I turned my professional path to one in which I worked for an AT company to working in accessibility contracting, mostly for research groups. This time has allowed me to work on projects far outside the range of things that may be profitable in the future, to learn a whole lot about how standards work and to work alongside some of the nicest and smartest people in the AT world.
Last week, we announced that a new and very different accessibility consulting company, 3MouseTechnology (3MT), founded by Mike Calvo, Christopher Toth and I along with nine others had opened for business.
I wrote the 3MT announcement press release and, for this article, decided to pretend I was a real journalist and compose using the third person as if I had been a recipient of the release and not its author. I talked to other 3MT members, got quotes and even quote myself in the article as if I was someone other than me. Gonzo journalism, my typical style, tends to be written in the first person so this is a bit of an experiment for me to see if I can write effectively in this style.
This article will, in third person, tell the story of 3MT, how we came to the decision to create the company, why we created the business and a bit about what we hope to do in the future. I hope you, my loyal readers, enjoy the piece and, as always, please post comments as I’d love to hear what you think.
A New Approach to Accessibility Consulting
“Mike and I wanted to do something different,” says Chris Hofstader, a founding member of 3MT. “We knew a lot of really smart, independent and productive blind software engineers, guys who’ve made some really impressive technology over the years and, given the enormous and growing demand for qualified accessibility specialists, we decided to build a new company around technology experts from within the community of AT users.”
“At 3 Mouse Technology (3MT), three quarters of our owners, our members if you will, are either blind or low vision. We bring the engineering skills, the knowledge of standards, guidelines and best practices and an intimate knowledge of the usability of a system to our clients,” adds Mike Calvo, another 3MT founder.
Nothing About Us Without Us
“Many times over the years,” adds Hofstader, “I’ve been asked, where can we find blind software engineers? and, with 3MT, I have an answer and it’s ‘right here.’”
“We believe that it is essential that people with disabilities be involved in every step of the development process,” says Mike Calvo, “As we can do the design, testing and usability components of a process, we’re available to those who hope to make their technology accessible at every stage of their project.”
3 Mouse Technology is available to work on every sort of accessibility related project. 3MT does web accessibility design and remediation, 3MT members have made accessible applications and access technology on most operating systems, its members participated in the development of five different screen readers and have used virtually every access technology designed for this population.
“With our experience in AT, web and application development,” says Christopher Toth, “we have a combination of skills that no other accessibility contractor can claim. We are a total solutions provider available to companies of all sizes and needs”“
Companies seeking help with compliance to regulations like Section 508, ADA Restoration Act, 21st Century Video and Communications Act (CVAA), and similar laws in various US states, EU and other nations that signed the UN Convention regarding people with disabilities, will find solutions at 3MT.
The Exploding Need For Accessibility Services
Last year, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had to delay the roll out of the technological requirements in the ADA Restoration Act to state, county and municipal governments for exactly one reason, “there are too few accessibility experts available to handle all of the remediation work required to come into compliance.” Meanwhile, the same US DOJ joined NFB in its lawsuit against H&R Block contending that corporate web sites, like that of the tax preparation giant, are “places of public accommodation” and, therefore, fall under the regulation of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), creating an even larger set of opportunities for contractors in this field.
“We don’t view the other accessibility contract services companies as competitors, “says Calvo. “In fact, most of us have good friends who own, operate and/or work for some of the other companies doing accessibility work. The fact is, this is a really big pie with a lot of slices and there’s tremendous opportunity in this field.”
3 Mouse Technology intends to work in cooperation with other related businesses and organizations and will in the coming weeks be announcing a number of strategic corporate partnerships with other teams with a similar set of goals.
Who Is 3 Mouse technology?
“As far as I can tell,” says Hofstader, “3 Mouse technology is the first team ever to include individuals from all areas of technology and vision impairment. We have Matt Campbell, the single most accomplished developer in this field. We have people who’ve worked on five different screen readers. We have folks who’ve made accessible applications on every major operating system out there. We have done web accessibility, application accessibility and have made access technology on multiple platforms. We are a total solutions provider.”
“If you asked me if we could get people from JAWS, SystemAccess, NVDA and so many other former competitors all on the same team,” adds Calvo, “I’d have never believed it. Here, with 3MT, though, we’ve assembled a team of former rivals to work toward a common set of goals.” , .
A Differently Organized Company
“When Mike and I first started tossing around ideas for a new project,” says Hofstader, “we knew we wanted to do something to help promote the careers of other blind people working in engineering. I knew some of the guys, Toth, Tyler, Matt and a few others and was so impressed with their skills, their history, their energy and commitment to making accessible technologies that I didn’t want them as employees but, rather, I felt that we should all be partners running a business using democratic principles.” 3MT is organized as a worker’s cooperative in which each member owns an equal portion of its equity and has the same voting power on company matters.
“I wanted to ensure that every member of this team had full access to all of its information, including financial and contract details,” continues Hofstader. “I’ve seen too many consulting businesses take on risks without including their employees in the decision making process and later surprise their staff with an unexpected layoff. We wanted all of our members to be able to participate in proposing contracts, following our income and be able to perform their own risk analysis before electing to participate in a an effort. In effect, we wanted the entire team to participate in executive level functions.”
“While a democratic decision making process slows us down a little,” says Christopher Toth, “it also brings us a level of scrutiny to everything we do and, because this is such an accomplished team, it includes a far wider range of inputs than would a typically organized company.”
The 3MT Future
Along with its short term goals of providing expert level contract services, 3MT will, in the future, be doing a number of different and innovative technology projects. While no one at 3MT is willing to talk too openly about its future, raiders can assume that there will be a number of exciting announcements coming from it in the next few months.
I honestly believe that 3MT now boasts the most accomplished team of blind programmers in history. We have such a broad range of skills as well as bringing the user perspective, an essential for testing all functional requirements of the standards out there to the industry. If you would like to buy some services from us, please go to the 3MT site and send us an email. While there, sign up for our mailing lists so you can ensure you get all of our announcements.