In the Spring of 2005, The CogniTech Cafe (now known online as ATHelp.org) became the first accessible and fully integrated public computing center in the City of New York. As an internet cafe open to the general public, the Cafe offered a typically comfortable and friendly atmosphere, but went further to provide unlimited accessibility to users with everything from voice dictation to eyegaze control of computers. Customers with disabilities reported feeling a true sense of equality, now able to pursue both social and technological interests in a truly integrated community environment. The Cafe provided technology support to anyone regardless of age or challenges, from vision supports to alternative access needs. This fully inclusive internet cafe welcomed over 150 walk-in customers a day, and directly served over 100 customers with disabilities with free/low cost technology support.
After one and half years, the actual Cafe unfortunately had to close its doors due to unfair alterations to their lease. Wanting to keep the "mission" alive to serve individuals with disabilities, The CogniTech Cafe and the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan united on a project to create a Free Assistive Technology support program, now sponsored by the Omer Foundation. Founder Mark Surabian also offers contractual services as an AT Consultant providing training to individuals and professionals, guidance to assistive technology developers and vendors, and lectures/webinars across the nation.
The owner of the CogniTech Cafe, Mark Surabian, has utilized assistive technologies to serve the educational and vocational needs of individuals with disabilities for almost 30 years, across five states, in both private and public school systems, residential facilities, and within individual homes. He developed The CogniTech Cafe of Harlem in response to the many requests by the children and adults he had served, who wanted an accessible place to play and work alongside their non-disabled peers. He loves his job by the way :)