'Wheelchair crowdsurfing makes me feel powerful'

Ben Triglia-Poulton Image copyright Ben Triglia-Poulton
Image caption Ben has been playing wheelchair basketball for the past nine years

Freshers' Week is all about new experiences and that's especially true for 18-year-old Ben Triglia-Poulton.

He was born with one extra vertebrae in his spine which lead to paralysis in his legs and he's been in a wheelchair ever since.

Now videos of him being lifted into the air by fellow students at a recent university gig have gone viral - with Ben saying the images help to break down barriers.

It's the first time he's crowdsurfed and he says it was extra special as ex-Radio 1, DJ Tim Westwood, was performing - and he re-posted one of the videos.

"It was incredible because on the night when I was lifted - obviously I could see him [Tim Westwood] and I made eye contact with him," says Ben who's studying Sport Health and Exercise Sciences.

"It's weird, but you feel so powerful and there's a lot of attention on you because as soon as I went up in the air all I could see was the torches from everyone's cameras just turn and face me."

After the DJ re-posted the footage and started following him, Ben says the video really started getting attention.

"It blew up on Twitter and people started tagging me and asking 'Ben, is this you?'"

He says there have been so many positives to being recognised.

"Especially going round campus and people were like 'oh you were the one in the air weren't you?'"

"People were saying 'this is crazy' and there's also been the funny wheelchair jokes like 'he's having a wheelie good time', but I'm someone who can take it."

Image copyright Ben Triglia-Poulton

Ben plays wheelchair basketball for his university team as well as for the London Titans - he trains six days a week - and his Instagram account is peppered with powerful photos of him on the court.

For him, the images of him crowdsurfing carry a positive message about disability too.

"It breaks down a lot of barriers because it proves that not all disabled people are just staying at home or don't necessarily have a life," he explains.

"They do get out, they do actually do stuff as you can see me doing - I'm doing sport and getting lifted in clubs."

But Ben has struggled with his body image which he says has lead to anxiety and depression in the past.

"As you can see on my Insta I'm in a wheelchair, I'm always sitting down and I'm always using my arms which leads to me having crazy skinny legs," he says.

"I try and make a joke calling them breadstick legs - making jokes out of stuff can make you see the light side of it.

"I'm not the biggest person, but I try not to be seen as so skinny. And not only that I can build muscle, but that I can prove that disabled people can do this sort of stuff."

Now he's keen to support others going through the same thing.

"Talk to somebody whether that be a family member, a team member, one of your mates - it could literally be anyone.

"There are lines you can phone if you don't feel comfortable speaking to someone that you actually know because sometimes that's easier."

Image copyright Ben Triglia-Poulton

Ben says the issue of struggling with your body image is nothing to do with whether you're able-bodied or not.

"Everyone struggles with body image in one way or another whether it's you haven't got the right hair or the right jaw line or the right size arms.

"You don't need to be standing just to prove your point."

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