Marilyn Saviola, from a 1965 publication
Marilyn Elizabeth Saviola
July 13, 1945
Manhattan, New York, US
|Died||November 23, 2019 (aged 74)|
Brooklyn, New York, US
|Occupation||Disability rights activist|
Marilyn E. Saviola (July 13, 1945 – November 23, 2019) was an American disability rights activist, executive director of the Center for the Independence of the Disabled in New York from 1983 to 1999, and vice president of Independence Care System after 2000. Saviola, a polio survivor from Manhattan, New York, is known nationally within the disability rights movement for her advocacy for people with disabilities and had accepted many awards and honors for her work.
Early life and education
On July 13, 1945, Saviola was born in Manhattan at the New York Hospital. Her parents, Peter Saviola and Camilla 'Millie' Saviola, who had no other children, were Italian immigrants who ran a candy shop/luncheonette in the Bronx. In August 1955, a few weeks after her tenth birthday, Saviola contracted polio. She was hospitalized at Willard Parker Hospital, a communicable disease hospital, and placed in an iron lung for two months. The polio caused her quadriplegia; she used a wheelchair and a ventilator.
"I don't think my friends really saw me as an equal," she recalled in 2001. "I know my family never accepted it, [they] totally didn't, and always thought of it as if I prayed enough, and they were good enough, they said enough novenas or whatever, ... I would be cured."
Because her family's home was not accessible, Saviola lived at Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island during her teen years. Saviola was part of creating the hospital's ward for young adult patients, with more age-appropriate routines, activities and outings. She attended Long Island University, earning a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1970. For her freshman year, she and another Goldwater patient attended classes remotely, by telephone, and took tests by mail, an arrangement "believed to be the first of its kind used in a hospital in the state". She later earned a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from New York University. She met activist Judy Heumann at LIU, where they were both students.
Saviola was a rehabilitation counselor for 11 years at Goldwater Memorial Hospital in the 1970s and early 1980s. While working at Goldwater Memorial, Saviola assisted individuals with severe physical disabilities and helped them with transitioning from living in the hospital to living in the community. She was executive director of the Center for the Independence of the Disabled in New York from 1983 to 1998, and vice president of Independence Care System after 2000. She chaired the Manhattan Borough Disability Advisory Group, and served on the boards of the Association of Independent Living Centers in New York, Disabled in Action, and the New York City Medicaid Managed Care Task Force. Saviola worked for state legislation to support community living and independence for disabled New Yorkers.
Saviola had particular interest in disabled women's rights and health issues. In 1979, she spoke at one of the first conferences on disabled women's lives, sponsored by the New York City Commission on the Status of Women and the Mayor's Office for the Handicapped. Her fellow speakers included disability rights activists Sandra Schnur, Maria Nardone, and Frieda Zames. Her advocacy work was credited in 2019 at the opening of a new radiology unit at NYC Health + Hospitals' Morrisania location in the Bronx, which featured accessible examination tables and mammography equipment.
In 2015, she received the Henry Viscardi Achievement Award for her lifetime of work in disability rights and in 2017, the New York State Disability Rights Hall of Fame inducted Saviola as part of their inaugural class of inductees.
On November 23, 2019, Saviola died at her home in Brooklyn at age 74 years. At the time Robert Geraghty was her long-term partner. An oral history interview with Saviola, about her life and activism, was recorded in 2001, is archived with the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement (DRILM) Oral History Project at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, California.
- Genzlinger, Neil (December 1, 2019). "Marilyn Saviola, Disability Rights Advocate, Is Dead at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- "Marilyn E. Saviola" (PDF). New York State Independent Living Council. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- "Marilyn Saviola, oral history interview; New York Activists and Leaders in the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement: Vol I". Online Archive of California. 2001. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
- Turkel, Peter (April 11, 1965). "Intercom Brings School to Spunky Polio Victims". Daily News. p. 137. Retrieved December 25, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Gehrke, John (August 5, 1971). "Patients Being Elected to Help Run Hospital". Daily News. p. 123. Retrieved December 25, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Klemesrud, Judy (May 25, 1979). "Disabled Women: A Conference on Discrimination". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- "Independence Care System | Our Leadership | Marilyn E. Saviola | SVP". Independence Care System. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- English, Bella (October 11, 1981). "1st-Class 1st-Grader; Paralysis no Handicap for Girl, 7". Daily News. p. 191. Retrieved December 25, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Marilyn Saviola". The Center for Translational and Basic Research (CTBR), Hunter College. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
- "Walk For Justice To Protest Pataki Budget On Anniversary Of Dr. King's Assassination" New York Beacon (April 14, 1995): 2. via ProQuest
- "Crown Heights". Daily News. September 30, 1997. p. 97. Retrieved December 25, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Martin, Douglas (April 29, 1997). "Woman Sees Advances For the Disabled Imperiled by Budget Cuts". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- "Marilyn E. Saviola". The Viscardi Center. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
- Boatman, Mark (May 2, 2014). "Marilyn Saviola: Improving Access to Women's Health Care". New Mobility. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
- "Marilyn Saviola Honored for Advocacy for People with Disabilities' Right to Quality Health Care". NYC Health + Hospitals. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
- Weiss, Regina (December 17, 2015). "Viscardi Achievement Award: A Lifetime of Advocacy". Independence Care System. Retrieved December 25, 2019.
- "New York Activists and Leaders in the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement: Vol I". Oral History Center, UC Berkeley Library. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
- Saviola's profile at the Independence Care System website.