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 Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan united on a project to create a Free Assistive Technology support program, now sponsored by the Omer Foundation. To date over 4300 individuals and families have been served for free. Founder Mark Surabian also offers free contractual services as an AT Consultant providing training to parent groups and professionals through ATTrain.org, funded by the Butler Foundation with technology funding by the Flutie Foundation.
Founder, Mark Surabian has utilized assistive and instructional technologies to serve the educational and vocational needs of thousands of individuals with disabilities for over 35 years, across five states, in both private and public school systems, residential and work facilities, and within home-based learning programs. He developed and presently operates ATHelp.org, an assistive technology support program at the Marlene Meyerson JCC in Manhattan, where he has offered free AT support to over 4300 children and adults with communication, vision, learning, and physical challenges. His new program, ATTrain.org, provides free AT training to professionals at schools and agencies across the greater NYC area.
As an Assistive Technology Consultant he has provided services to the NYC DOE, NYS Acces-VR, and to 200+ public, private, and charter schools, addressing the curriculum and participation needs of students and training/support for professionals. He currently teaches comprehensive courses on Assistive Technology (AT) for NYU’s Doctoral Program in Occupational Therapy and for the graduate schools of Education at Bankstreet College and St. Joseph’s College of Brooklyn. He is a former instructor at Pace University's Educational Technology Program (now defunct) and within Brooklyn College's ghraduate programs in Education and Speech Therapy. He provides tailored guest lectures on AT for Columbia University Teachers College, CUNY, Fordham University, and other local institutions. He has developed/delivered lecture series for agencies such as The Everyone Reading Assn., The NYC Special Education Collaborative, and The Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project, and presented on a variety of AT topics at most national AT/IT/Ed conferences such as ISTE, ATIA, CTG, AERA, and ATCNE. He has consulted for AT developers like AMDi, Kinems, LC Technologies, Panther Technologies, and Pletly, and volunteered his services to advocacy groups such as The UNICEF Innovation Fund, The Cooper Hewitt/Smithsonian Accessibility Advisory Committee, The United Federation of Teachers, The National MS Society, Advocates for Children, Parents for Inclusive Education, and the ARISE Coalition. He is published and collaborates on research projects around the use of AT for learning, communication, and accessibility.