Our mission for more than 60 years has been to empower persons with disabilities by improving the quality of their lives and fostering their integration into the mainstream of society. We also develop educational programs including training for advocacy for their individual civil rights.
Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, Inc. (BCID) is a non-profit, grass roots organization operated by a majority of people with disabilities for people with disabilities since 1956.
BCID is dedicated to guaranteeing the civil rights of people with disabilities. We exist to to improve the quality of life of Brooklyn residents with disabilities through programs that empower them to gain greater control of their lives and achieve full and equal integration into society. We accomplish this through our services, our advocacy for systems change to remove physical, attitudinal and communication barriers to people with disabilities, and through our education and awareness programs.
Based on a self-help model, our primary services include: disability rights advocacy; peer support; resource information and referral; housing advocacy; independent living skills consultation; government benefits information and advocacy; youth services; as well as information on the civil rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities. Many of our staff members, board members and volunteers have disabilities themselves and, so, are viable role models for other people with disabilites.
As a member of the National Council on Independent Living and the Independent Living Network of New York (ILNNY), BCID is able to advocate on many levels for people with disabilities. Our stature in the disability community, combined with our programs and services designed to educate and empower people with disabilities, places BCID in a unique position to enable people with disabilities to achieve and affirm their independence.
Heidi Hirschfeld, Board President: When Heidi Hirschfeld developed a disease that temporarily meant she had to use a wheelchair, she began to “get a better understanding of disability.” As a Brooklyn native, she was then drawn to BCID’s long history of advocacy and other work in the borough, joining the board in 2013. She has been an assistant professor at St. John’s University, a software developer for Accenture, and a senior programmer/analyst for Hertz Corp.
Michael J. Wasser Esq., Vice President: Michael Wasser’s first experience with disability advocacy was in fifth grade, when he fought to make his school’s gym and stage accessible. He was “subjected to ridicule,” he reports, and didn’t succeed, but years later found that lifts had been installed to make the gym and stage accessible. In a case he pursued as an adult, Michael won a ruling by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that there can be no caps on an individual service or an entire rehabilitation plan. Michael has a progressive form of muscular dystrophy and is an attorney for the New York City Law Department. He joined the board in 2013.
Greg Blank, Treasurer
Anne Kelsey, Corresponding Secretary: Anne Kelsey first worked with BCID and other New York City independent living centers (ILCs) as a Fellowship Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates. BCID and other ILCs are a key partner in DRA’s legal work, and she “saw the important role that ILCs play in providing services to and defending the rights of persons with disabilities in local communities.” A Brooklyn resident and a person with a disability, Anne now is a staff attorney at Disability Rights New York. She joined the board in 2015.
Carole Rose, Recording Secretary
Sharon Shapiro, Member: A Brooklyn native and a life-long disability advocate, Sharon Shapiro served as BCID’s Executive Director from 1996 to 2001. Her advocacy accomplishments include improving Access-A-Ride by initiating a 1999 lawsuit against the MTA, getting the Disability Rent Increase Exemption enacted, and bringing accessible voting machines to New York State. She now serves as executive director of Yad HaChazakah—The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center. Sharon joined the board in 2010.
Warren Shaw, Member: Warren Shaw, an attorney, also is an historian of the New York City disability rights movement. His parents, Mollie and Julie Shaw, were among the movement’s founders. In 2015, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Warren curated “Gaining Access,” the first-ever museum exhibit on the New York City disability rights movement. Warren joined the board in 2010.
Marvin Wasserman, Member: A Brooklyn native, Marvin Wasserman served as BCID’s Executive Director from 2008 to 2012. He has spent 40 years advocating for disability rights, including working for accessible taxis as a leader in the Taxis for All Campaign; more accessible subways; and emergency preparedness. Marvin first joined the board in 2007, then returned to the board in 2012.