Taken from Virgin.com
Written by Richard Branson
It was truly inspiring meeting the brother of my tennis coach James Cluskey on a recent visit to Dublin.
Stephen Cluskey was paralysed from the neck down after a camping trip with a group of friends in August 2002. He said to this day he doesn’t know why he did it (other than being a typical 18-year-old messing around), but he jumped on top of a round hay bale. He felt it starting to move and looked back to see a friend pushing it. He tried to keep his balance but fell, and as he lifted his head to get out the way he heard a crack and everything in his body went dead – he’d broken his neck.
He said he went from being 6ft 3 to about 3ft 6 using a wheelchair and at first really struggled with how his life had changed. On one of the first nights out after his injury, he went out with a group of friends and his heart dropped when he saw 20 steps going vertically down into the venue. He asked the bouncers to help carry him down, but they refused, saying he was a fire hazard. On another occasion he waited six hours in the freezing cold for a taxi to get home, as none of the taxis were accessible.
But ironically, he said, those bad incidences were the best things that ever happened to him.
“I like to dwell in the possible and the positive,” he said – and because of this mantra he’s lived an incredible life since his injury.
He told me that the challenges he’s faced represent possibilities – they have spurred him on to problem solve and to make things better for other people.
As a result of his experiences, he said he has been set on an amazing journey and has co-founded, along with Noelle Daly, a company called Mobility Mojo, whose vision is to be the beacon for what an accessible world could be.
He said: “The need for good access affects all of us – a person with poor eyesight or bad hearing, parents with buggies, an older person with mobility issues. These people don’t identify themselves as disabled, because they’re not. They do however need good access to make their lives easier. We want to talk with the top travel platforms in the world because what we do can add significant value to their business.”
He said what Mobility Mojo does is not about disability, it’s about accessibility for everyone whatever stage in life you’re at. This is life enhancing for everyone.
Stephen told me that he’s now getting more fulfilment out of his life than before his accident, as he’s challenging himself more than he’s ever done before.
Since his injury he’s gone to college to get his degree, started two businesses and co-founded his current company, been appointed to a government body by the Irish prime minister and advised the government on accessibility, helped secure three million euros for accessible taxis, built a house and travelled the world.
He told me how his life is full of purpose and he’s driven to make the world a better, easier and more comfortable place for others. This is the true essence of entrepreneurship – seeing a problem or having a frustration and working hard to find people a solution.
The wheelchair doesn’t represent disability to Stephen, but moving forward.
Stephen said: “No matter how bad things might seem initially, it’s never as bad as you think it is. There is always hope, always second chances and always opportunities.’
Spoken like a true entrepreneur and, as importantly, someone who is always looking for a positive out of life no matter what cards they’ve been dealt. I wish Stephen all the best for his new business; I have no doubts that he’s going to continue change the world for the better.