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WSSM-06: Bernard J. Carabello Collection

Identifier: WSSM-06


Bernard J. Carabello was born on January 19, 1950 in New York City. He was born with cerebral palsy, but was misdiagnosed as being developmentally disabled at age three. Doctors urged his mother—who was separated and raising eight other children on welfare—to place Carabello in an institution. Carabello was placed at the Willowbrook State School in 1954, and remained there for 18 years. In 1972, Dr. Mike Wilkins, a physician at the facility, declared himself Carabello's personal guardian and obtained his legal release from the Willowbrook State School. Soon afterwards, Wilkins was fired from the school. That day, Wilkins arranged for an ABC news reporter, Geraldo Rivera, to expose the conditions at the school and interview Carabello. Rivera’s 30-minute piece, The Last Great Disgrace, created a massive reaction of public outrage. Carabello has since transformed himself into a major force in the movement for self-advocacy in New York and across the nation. He began work to organize a statewide self-advocacy organization and founded the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State in 1986. He continues to advocate for the rights and freedoms of people with disabilities today. The collection contains Carabello's medical records from the Willowbrook State School and the first four chapters of his unfinished autobiography.


  • Creation: 1954-1977, 1985

Conditions Governing Use

The researcher assumes full responsibility for compliance with laws of copyright. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Coordinator of Archives & Special Collections.


1 Linear Feet

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Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the College of Staten Island by Bernard J. Carabello in May 2005

Processing Information

Collection processed by Catherine N. Carson.

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Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the CSI Archives & Special Collections Repository