Thirty-six years old. A practising attorney, family man, and disability rights advocate in Washington DC, United States. Josh Basile’s life changed forever at eighteen years old. Overcoming mental barriers, everyday life obstacles and the true understanding that perspective is a superpower.
Josh was in the ocean with his boogie board on a family holiday. At that moment, a wave picked him up and threw him, slamming him on his head on the ocean floor. That day he cracked his C-4 and C-5 vertebrae and became paralysed below the shoulders, leaving him quadriplegic.
One blink for no, two blinks for yes. Josh was placed on a ventilator to keep him alive. He could not communicate as it took his ability to speak away. All his communication was through blinking. When he came off it, his voice returned. He made sure that from that moment on, every word counted. The day he first heard his voice again, he became passionate again for life. Returning to school and community college, he went to undergrad and then to law school, where he graduated near the top of his class.
Josh knew that it was not easy coming into this world since his injury. Every single thing in his life changed.
Before my injury, I did my life in one million ways. Then I realised I needed to figure out one million new ways. If you learn that through someone else’s experiences, it becomes a little bit easier. You do not have to do that alone.JOSH BASILE.
The idea is that you are not alone in this world, no matter what you are going through. Josh wanted to give that to families so they do not feel so lonely, that we can all learn from each other and be on the journey together.
After his injury, Josh created a foundation called Determined2Heal. To simplify the transition of life for newly injured families with paralysis. He also invented a website called SPINALpedia. Incredible and informative, the site provides videos broken down by physical functionality to show what is possible for all aspects of life. Last year their 21,000th video was uploaded, and there are 500-1,000 mentors to show you what is possible within your unique world. Empowering families impacted by paralysis through each other’s stories and experiences creates real change and a community that has each other’s backs.
Josh prides himself as a community leader and passionate disability rights advocate focusing much of his time on breaking down barriers for people with disabilities. He believes there is so much that can be done and must be done to improve independent living, transportation, employment, and web accessibility. At the end of the day it comes down to raising awareness and creating a doable call to action. Josh teamed up with accessiBe a company that helps businesses of all sizes improve accessibility on websites. He wants all business owners to make their websites accessible not just for compliance, but as a smart business opportunity and the right thing to do. By simply removing existing access barriers, businesses can open the doors to millions of people with disabilities and their billions of dollars in spending power. Josh helped to create the first national TV commercial campaign on web accessibility.
Determined2Heal recognises mentoring families within their own homes, but it is just as important to get families out of their homes through adventure. Therefore, Adventures on Wheels was created, a programme for living with adventurous wheels. Designed with an adaptive sports programme to show people and the world you can still do so much through sport and your paralysis. A willingness to try and a little creativity can change your life. Families have already experienced adaptive waterskiing, snow skiing, indoor skydiving, sailing and hand gliding.
Another adaptive sport experienced is slingshot golf, created by Josh. Sports has always been his life. He always loved to get on the field and compete. At college, he was the number one freshman for tennis. Learning so much through sports is one of the things he misses the most. So much of sport is physical, but the mental game is just as important. You could have the best talent and body. But if you do not have the mental game, you will not excel. After his injury, Josh got back on the golf course with his dad to watch him play. “I knew I had the mental game to dominate it and play at a high level”, says Josh. So, he did that through video games. With an incredible mental game, Josh played the sport with adaptive gaming controllers. He was able to really feel and experience the sport again.
Josh wanted to figure out how to do it in the real world. One day he dreamt about slingshot golf. He envisioned a pendulum putting device. You push, it swings back and forth again and again. He built it the next day with a caregiver. It worked. He created a way to calibrate it using a protractor. He measured how any degree correlated to the distance and power of putting the ball. Being able to get out there was key. To be able to compete against his family. Thus, slingshot golf was born and now over 150 families with paralysis are playing.
Most of the time people think there is only one way to experience a sport. If they cannot do it that way, it is ruined or negative. If athletes cannot participate at the highest level anymore for their reasons and cannot perform as well, they quit. It is all about perspective. “It is like if I cannot do it at that level, I do not want to do it at all. I never understood that. To give up something which brought you so much happiness. When you can play it differently, it is still fun. There are so many values to be taken from that”, explains Josh.
Different can still be fun. So much of sport is to who we are as people.JOSH BASILE
Yes, Josh was physically paralysed but learnt very quickly if he went into a deep depression that the mental paralysis would appear. Here is where you quit. Or you do not want to be a part of the world. Next thing, you are stuck in a place and cannot move forward. So much of moving forward is having that awareness and mental game to tackle everyday life obstacles. A big believer of two feet forward, one foot back, Josh understands there is no doubt any life-changing event brings barriers to overcome.
Josh believes that we are all on our own journeys. “Life is like a sailing journey, on a voyage. You are in charge of your journey. You are in charge of your ship. There is a crew and different people aboard to help you get to where you need to go. It is not a weakness to ask for help. It is a strength. You have a better journey with others in life. You do not have to do it alone”, describes Josh.
There is no way to sugarcoat it. It is not always an easy road ahead. If life were always easy, it would not be life.JOSH BASILE
So many people, after their injury, lose a lot of independence. They get stuck wanting to give up or not accepting the new reality. However, the quicker they begin attempting to get out of their comfort zone, they discover many opportunities, experiences and memories. To have the willingness to try with a touch of creativity goes a long way. Indoor skydiving gives a quadriplegic wings, picking them up. “The next time they have an obstacle in life, getting into a building or crossing a street, they can remember one thing. They just did indoor skydiving. They are absolutely going to conquer this next challenge”, explains Josh. Adaptive sports shows how everyday life becomes a little easier with the right creativity and willingness to try.
Figuring out how to get the ball in the hole, you have to figure out how to do that, have a game plan, and execute it. For Josh, he has this in everyday life. Sports can make you heated, excited, sad, any emotion. Balancing the mental game, communicating feelings and getting more out of the experience in sport is crucial. Participating in sports is so important in teaching everyone about life. To dismiss sports just because you have a disability is a huge loss. It can be even more valuable to play after the injury.
Perspective is a superpower.JOSH BASILE
Josh uses his voice to break down barriers for access and inclusion for people with disabilities. He also used his voice when he met his fiance. Meeting online, Josh took Katie out on their first date for dinner. Date after date, more adventures together, Josh quickly fell in love. “Katie is just an incredible person. She was a single mother with a beautiful daughter, and to witness her incredible mother skills, I fell even more in love”, explains Josh. “I have the best bonus daughter in the world and a baby boy due in March. I cannot wait to be a father from day one”. It has always been a dream for Josh to be a father and teach sports to his kids. However, there was a law whereby all his caregiving is through the state, and if they marry, he loses it all. In September 2021, after three and half years of advocacy, Josh got the Governor’s administration to agree to change the rules. In October 2021, Josh proposed to the woman he loves. After the rules are adopted in 2022, Katie and Josh are excited to say yes to each other at the altar.
“Katie, my daughter and I were doing a baby bump photoshoot. I put the ring on a unicorn teddy. My daughter gave it to her mum. Mummy, mummy, look at this unicorn. When Katie saw it, I asked her if she would marry me. She said yes!” describes Josh with a smile beaming from ear to ear.
Josh explains that you need to get out there and test the waters. See what does and does not work. It might take ten different tries to figure out one new way of doing something, but once you do, you have a new way of experiencing life. Josh believes there are two perspectives people with paralysis have. One focuses solely on what a person cannot do. Always creating unnecessary obstacles and consistently doubting one’s abilities.. It then becomes an uphill battle. So, if you approach life from the second perspective, believing yes, I can do this. I have these tools in my bag to overcome this problem and solve life. Then life becomes a level playing field or downhill way of living.
Recognising the superpower of what perspective can provide on accomplishing life is everything. What there is to live for in life. Having that superpower, Josh never says no to life. Never says no, I cannot do that. He always thinks I can, in this way, or with these tools. He experiences it with his unique abilities. It might look different to someone without paralysis, but he knows he can make anything happen. This is why perspective is a superpower.