A photo of the Willowbrook State School
October 3, 2023

CDD Willowbrook Documentary to Air on WMHT, PBS Stations Statewide in October

CDD Willowbrook Documentary to Air on WMHT, PBS Stations Statewide in October

The NYS Council on Developmental Disabilities (CDD) has announced its short documentary, The Path Forward: Remembering Willowbrook will be shown on WMHT, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member station for the Capital Region and other PBS stations across New York State in October.

WMHT will run the documentary on Friday, October 6, 2023 at 8:00 PM, directly following its regular 7:30 PM weekly news program New York Now, which will focus on the history of Willowbrook, the making of the documentary, and ways to move forward in the fight for disability rights. Learn more at nynow.org.

Other PBS stations across the state airing The Path Forward documentary include:

  • WNET in NYC on October 12th at 10:30 PM
  • WNED in Buffalo/Toronto on Oct. 17th at 10 PM
  • WSKG in Binghamton on Oct. 29th at 6:00 PM,
  • WPBS in Watertown on December 8th at 9:00 PM
  • WXXI in Rochester in January 2024

Willowbrook was a state-supported institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities located in the Willowbrook neighborhood on Staten Island in New York City, and at the time, was the largest state-run institution for people with developmental disabilities in the world. Geraldo Rivera’s 1972 exposé gained national attention, and Willowbrook quickly became a tragic example of institutional abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities.

CDD, in collaboration with OGS Media Services, has produced this half-hour documentary highlighting the importance of lessons learned, positive change that resulted, and the legacy of the former Willowbrook State School. The documentary features first-hand accounts from the original Willowbrook gamechangers - those who spoke out, took courageous action, risked their careers and reputations, and ultimately forever changed disability services in New York State and across the country.

“It is so important that we never forget what happened at Willowbrook, and current and future generations know this story. We are thrilled even more people across the state will see this documentary on PBS,” said Vicky Hiffa, producer of The Path Forward documentary and Executive Director of CDD. “We are honored to have preserved the voices and experiences of those who lived the Willowbrook story. We need to understand our past so that we can protect our future.”

WMHT CEO Anthony V. Hayes shared, “The Path Forward: Remembering Willowbrook tells an important New York story that transformed the nation.  WMHT is proud to partner with the NYS DDPC in telling this powerful story.  It is imperative that we reflect on the lessons of the past in order to envision a more inclusive future for everyone in our community. 

The Path Forward documentary has been selected to screen at six NY film festivals so far and has been awarded two “best” and two finalist distinctions. Views of the documentary top 90,000. In additional to the fully-captioned English version of the film, the CDD has made available Traditional and Standard Chinese, Spanish and Audio Descriptive versions on their YouTube channel.

The mission of the CDD is to enhance the lives of New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities and their families through programs that promote self-advocacy, participation, and inclusion in all facets of community life. They are one of 56 state councils on developmental disabilities in the U.S. and its territories created through the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act). 

To see a trailer of the documentary, visit: https://youtu.be/kl6aAUTQSIc?list=PL4SGW2Ye1tFjdMl-n0eygn3TG2bhnkTlO