Teen with cerebral palsy and quadriplegia breaks free

A 19-year-old with cerebral palsy is a professional video editor, despite having no control of his limbs. He left a crowd speechless at the 7th International Carers Conference when he edited a video live on stage… using his head.

Your hands are tied behind your back. You can’t move your legs. You have trouble speaking. You have difficulty controlling your movements. All day, every day, you feel trapped in your body. What do you do?

If you ask 19-year-old Christopher Hills, he’d tell you, “don’t take no for an answer, learn a new skill and start a business.”

“Disability my a*se,” he says with a smirk.

The young man with a bright smile and a vibrant imagination is doing things no one thought possible.

Christopher was born with Cerebral Palsy, which is caused by damage to the brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth. In his case, it means he can’t walk or can’t control his limbs, and his speech is significantly impacted too.

But his brain is sharp and he’s constantly thinking of new ways to achieve ‘the impossible’.

“I think the reason people with disability find it hard to get anywhere in life, is because society doesn’t expect them to,” he says.

Gritt, determination, a supportive family, and new technology have given Christopher freedom.

‘Switch control’ is one of the accessibility preferences on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac and Apple TV, which allows users with limited mobility to control different devices.

A little switch hiding behind Christopher’s head rest on his wheelchair has enabled him to use a computer.

“I have the Specs Switch strapped onto my headrest which is connected to my iPhone. Switch Control scans the elements on the screen. When the element I want is highlighted, I press my switch,” he says.

Christopher was studying IT online and decided to create a video to communicate with his lecturers, and let them know how he was accessing the computer.

Before he knew it, the video had had been viewed on YouTube more than fifty thousand times.

You can watch it here.

He started receiving messages from around the world, and requests for video editing work.

“I had no idea I could capture so many people’s attention. I was just sharing my story. This experience made me realise two things: I had something to share with the world and the technology at my disposal was infinitely more powerful than I had thought,” he said.

He’s since started his own editing business, Switched-On Video Editing.

Christopher was a keynote speaker at the 7th International Carers conference in Adelaide.

He used a combination of video and voice technology to tell his story, and just to prove to everyone he wasn’t making it all up, he edited a video live on screen, using the switch on his headrest.

The conference was sponsored by Bupa, which is preparing to launch a new centre for people living with disability called Bupa Therapy, to help people like Christopher access multiple therapy services all in the one location. Find out more about Bupa Therapy here.

While Christopher’s Dad Garry is his primary carer, Garry says he’s been blown away by how capable his son is, and by how bright the future is looking.

“He now has friends and colleagues around the world. He’s got challenging work that he loves and gets paid for, he has opportunities to be creative and to make a difference, and the freedom to distance himself from his old man at last and be himself. And now I can reveal the big news, that Christopher is now making plans to move out into his own place,” Garry said, in a video shown at the conference.

“Even if all advances in technology stopped today, if the tech we have today is as good as it ever gets, even now, it would be enough for this man to live a fulfilling life without me.”

While Garry often helps with filming, Christopher decided he wanted to be able to do that on his own too. Unable to hold a camera, he thought, why not try with a drone instead?

Watch the incredible result.