Brian Fitzpatrick, who is quadriplegic, was born with spastic cerebral palsy, a condition which limits his motor skills. While the condition is primarily muscular in nature, Fitzpatrick was only 3 years old when he started to understand that when people see him, and others like him, they tend to jump to the conclusion that he is intellectually impaired as well.
"One of the big perceptions is that we can't do anything, that we're not actually a protected member of society," Fitzpatrick said. "People tend to speak louder to me. People tend to shy away from me at grocery stores and stuff."
Now a witty 42-year-old radio host with a busy schedule and absolutely no fear of a camera, Fitzpatrick is committed to changing that.
Fitzpatrick's day typically starts at 7 a.m. After taking his medications and chatting with his caretaker, he usually makes his way to the phone or computer to work on projects, advocacy, or plan his public speaking or community service engagements.
"Brian is an amazing guy that has really been looking to make a contribution and find meaning in his life," said Salvatore Garozzo, executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Berkshire County.
Fitzpatrick has been a member of the organization since 1979 when his parents still worked there.
Today, United Cerebral Palsy of the Berkshires serves 3,300 people in Western Massachusetts, 18 percent of whom have cerebral palsy, according to Garozzo.
"I think there's a notion that if you see someone who has a vision or hearing impairment, or a mobility issue, they tend to think they are also impaired cognitively," Garozzo said. "We always try to get to know the person before we make a judgment because look, who would have thought Brian could be a radio host?"
In addition to his on-air outreach — he often talks about his own life and local news issues — he also has been working with UCP Program Manager Tiffany Scully to speak to students in schools about living with a disability.
Image credit: Photo by Author