Worth Repeating, City-County Observer Selects Ben Trockman As First 2013 Distinguished Mole Award Winner.



Chairman of the Board of the City-County Observer, Ron Cosby announced today that the 2013 Mole Award Recipient Committee has selected Ben Trockman as the first mole award winner of 2013. Cosby said of Trockman,“This is quite an honor for Ben Trockman. He is an outstanding individual, he is persuasive both intellectually and ethically, and is the humblest of public servants. The 2013 CCO Mole Awards Committee feels honored to award Ben with the first City-County Observer Mole Award for the year 2013. Ben’s father, The Honorable Judge Wayne Trockman has graciously accepted our invitation to present Ben this prestigious community award, in person, at our 2013 CCO Mole Awards banquet, to be announced at a later date. Ben is the youngest recipient of the mole award since its inception in 2010.”

In 2007 Benjamin Trockman, suffered a tragic spinal cord injury while participating in a Motocross Event. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down and coming to terms with seemingly impossible challenges that he, and his family, would have to overcome. Despite these challenges, and with help of his loved ones and many friends Ben has prevailed to lead a very proactive lifestyle in the face of a world that does not always necessarily accommodate one with Ben’s disabilities.

Ben has a passion for traveling and visiting the world. This led him to analyze and address one of the largest issues for disabled travelers; the airline industry. Ben organized a proposal to be presented before the Indiana House offering examples of challenges that were generated by Airline policies and summarized the proposal by offering solutions to these issues. In the proposal Ben says,“I am an exceptionally active person, as are many other folks with disabilities. I want to travel the country and the world, but with these types of limitations that is not possible. We need to join together and advocate this necessary change.”

The proposal passed the Indiana House, unanimously, and went on to pass the Indiana Senate by a unanimous vote as well. We congratulate Ben for this paramount accomplishment and wish him luck as the proposal progresses through subsequent legislation.

Listed below is the outline of Ben’s proposal he presented to the Indiana State Senate and House recently..

The following is a proposal to improve the quality of transportation via the airlines for persons with disabilities, specifically those in power wheelchairs. We are hoping to amend the Air Carrier Access Act or draft new legislation that would require the improvements of airline accessibility. – Ben Trockman

In March 2006, at the age of 17, I was involved in a motocross accident that left me paralyzed from the neck down. Motocross was a family affair, my brother and my father rode while mom was watching in the stands. As fate would have it, the sport that brought us together would ultimately create the biggest challenge we have ever had as a family.

Since the day of my injury, things have obviously changed in the way we all as a family, live our lives. I have to travel around a little differently than I used to; these days I use a power wheelchair to get to and from my destinations.

As a man with a disability, I have undoubtedly had to learn a terrific deal of patience. Instead of the old days where I could jump in the shower and be out of the door in 20 minutes, it takes two nurses and about an hour and a half to get me up and going. But, I’m not one to let anything, including a life-changing disability, stand in my way of a fulfilled life.

I am currently a college student at the University of Southern Indiana. I am majoring in Public Relations while also working on minors in Business Administration and Radio and Television Broadcasting.

I receive physical and occupational therapy from an organization called Easter Seals. In 2010, I was nominated as the local representative for Easter Seals disability services. During that time, I traveled throughout the community advocating for young children and adults with disabilities and informed the public of how Easter Seals changes lives every day.

This past year, 2012, I was chosen as the National Ambassador for the Easter Seals organization. Again, I had the pleasure of traveling to advocate for folks just like me, who might just not have the ability to speak up for themselves. But, this time as a national representative the traveling was quite extensive.

My family and I packed up my accessible van and traveled to many different locations across the United States to attend the Easter Seals conventions. From my home in Evansville, Indiana, we drove to Washington DC that October 2012 for my first conference. A few months later we made a trip for a Century 21 convention, who is one of the largest contributors to Easter Seals, to New Orleans.

In May 2012, we once again loaded up the van for a trip, this time San Diego, which we traveled around 4600 miles. My final destination at the national representative was in Chicago, which fortunately is only a six hour drive from home. Although, we enjoyed every single place that we traveled to, we had to drive.

I still have not mentioned the places that we had visited just for fun; Niagara Falls, Fenway Park in Boston, Patriots game in Foxboro, and Eagles game in Philadelphia and also a game at Yankee Stadium. That is just one of the recent trips that my family and I have taken, again traveling by car. Why are we driving to all these different places you ask?

Airlines are not fully accessible to people with disabilities in a power wheelchair, like myself. For instance, if I were to travel by airplane, here is what I would have to do…

First, I would have to show up early at the terminal so that someone could transfer me from my own power wheelchair to one that can fit in between the aisles in the airplane. When I say “transfer”… I mean that a few people from the airlines will have to physically lift me from my own chair to another.

They would then have to push me into the airplane in the smaller manual wheelchair (Mind you, I am 6’2 and 230 pounds) a smaller chair is not going to be the most comfortable.
Then, when I arrive to my seat in the airplane, we would begin another transfer. A lift team from the airlines would then have to lift me from this chair (the smaller airline provided wheelchair) into the airplane seat; no easy task.

After going through the process of transferring me in the airline chair someone will then take my own personal wheelchair (Which, by the way, they charge insurance around 40,000 dollars for) and load it below the airplane; another huge cause for concern.

I have heard many horror stories of people getting their chairs back in pieces after the flight. Apparently, chairs are disassembled from time to time to fit correctly underneath the plane. Now, no disrespect to anyone who works for the airlines, but those who may be disassembling my chair are not exactly trained in that profession.

After the flight I must wait for everyone to exit the plane, then we would do the reverse order of everything explained earlier; transferring back into the airline provided chair, then rolling out of the plane to get back into my own chair. But, this time I might find my chair in pieces. But wait, there’s more… I’m supposed to be at the terminal across the airport for my next connection in an hour… What now?

For me, this process is entirely unacceptable. If restaurants, homes, buses, trains and vehicles can be easily accessible, so can the airlines. I’m not writing just to complain; I have a solution.

One of the biggest health concerns for persons in my situation are pressure sores. Pressure sores can show up in a remarkably small amount of time if your body is left in an awkward or uncomfortable position. The cause of Christopher Reeve’s death; the former Superman actor was a pressure sore. It can happen to anyone at any time.

The way to avoid pressure sores while in the wheelchair is tilting and reclining back and forth… and often. This eliminates any prolonged period of time, putting pressure on certain points of my body.

This is something that could not happen while in an airline chair, which remember is what I am going to be confined to in the current airline setup. The chair cannot tilt back, only recline… We know how much those airline seats recline, not even close to enough to avoid pressure sores. Remembering I cannot move my arms length or torso to readjust myself while in the air.

Most people who are not wheelchair-bound, or who do not know of someone who is wheelchair-bound, may not understand the importance of a person with a disability being in their own wheelchair.

For instance, as I mentioned before, I am 6’2 and about 230 pounds. Therefore, my chair has been customized to fit my size and weight. My leg rests have been extended to adjust for my longer legs. My seat cushion and back rest are wider than most because of my bigger build, and my armrests have been adjusted just right for me.

What differentiates my chair from many others is that it is a “sip and puff” wheelchair. Because I cannot functionally use my arms, to where I could use a joystick on a wheelchair, I use a specialized system to drive my chair.

I move forward, reverse, turn left, turn right, stop, tilt and recline all through the “sip and puff” straw that is placed in front of my face. If my chair were to be damaged, it would not be easily or quickly replaced. Let’s just say I would not be traveling around anywhere that I landed; life would be extremely difficult. It is not as if I can go out and just get a rental.

One of the most valuable customizations on my chair are my laterals. Laterals are built-in to the sides of my chair to provide support of my midsection. With a spinal cord injury at my level, I do not have the ability to hold myself up or straighten my back.

This in conjunction with a slight bit of scoliosis makes it to where there is no way I’m going to be sitting straight without the support of the laterals. Therefore, without any laterals…There is no way I’m going to be comfortable, especially in a normal airline seat.

These are only a few examples of why being in my own personal wheelchair is so essential to me. For others, there could be a whole variety of different issues. You can understand why I do not feel comfortable with the idea of riding for multiple hours in an airline seat.

In my accessible van, I have a locking mechanism built into the floor where my wheelchair can attach. To get in my car all I have to do is pull up the ramp, which folds out of the side of the vehicle, then whip into the passenger side of the car. The passenger seat has already been removed, and I can latch in safely and securely.

There is a bolt that sticks out of the bottom of my chair that connects me to the floor of my vehicle, making it safe to travel. This mechanism is an EZ Lock. This is what I propose the airlines install in their planes.

There is also another way to secure a wheelchair to the floor of a moving vehicle, these are called Q’ Straints. My chair, as do many others, have built-in hooks where these restraints can be attached from the chair to the floor. Q Straints are commonly used to strap down wheelchairs in vehicles, whether it is a manual or power wheelchair.

When I travel long distances I use the EZ lock system and the Q’Straints in combination for a much smoother ride. An airline could do just as I do, either use an EZ lock system, the Q Straints or both of them in conjunction.

This new process would avoid anyone in a wheelchair having to get out of the comfort and safety of their own chair, being transferred from chair to chair by strangers (3 or 4) and also avoiding any concerns about damage to their own wheelchair.

What is an EZ lock? http://ezlock.net/

What are Q’ Straints? http://www.qstraint.com/en_na/products/4-point-securement-systems/qrt-max


Some problems we may encounter with the airline are things such as the loss of a potential ticket being purchased. The EZ lock system could be installed underneath any airplane seat. When a person who is going to use the newly improved accessible seating purchases a ticket for the flight the normal airline seat could be removed, revealing the EZ lock where someone could lock in for the flight.

We would also have to make sure that there is enough space for a full-size wheelchair to be able to enter the plane and maneuver to at least the first row, where one could be locked down for flight. This change in the airlines may have to incorporate a change in the build of the airplanes themselves. It is something that would have to be further investigated.

I am an exceptionally active person, as are many other folks with disabilities. I want to travel the country and the world, but with these types of limitations that is not possible. We need to join together and advocate this necessary change.

It is essential for folks like myself to have the ability to easily travel, and I know that there are many others that will get on board. I sincerely appreciate your time and hope you will join me in this cause. I hope to hear any suggestions or different ideas relating to the improvement of air travel for people like myself.

Ben Trockman


  1. As personal friend of Ben I must say that he is well deserving of this honor.

    Thanks CCO for making Ben your 2013 Mole Award winner.

  2. Everyone who knows Ben will tell you have hard he has worked on this airline issue.

    Glad the good people at CCO have honored him for his effort on this most important social issue.

  3. Thank you everyone for the nice words, very much appreciated. Seems like quite an honor for just a guy who is working to do what I believe is just the right thing. And, if we can succeed in doing the right thing, it will benefit thousands of people.

    By the way, I think the train/rail idea is a wonderful one. I wish that America would adapt to these technologies just as other countries have; so many benefits.

    Thank you all!

    Ben Trockman

  4. Ben Trockman is one heck of a nice person. He is not only respected by many people but also is loved by many.

    Congratulations Ben for being selected as a “CCO Mole” award winner for 2013.

  5. Ben, I’m very proud of what you are doing by taking the airlines to task.

    Your an outstanding person and well deserving of this prestige public servant award.award

  6. I’m definitely glad to see Ben’s Mole Award being brought back up because I really do feel like this really is something that Evansville should be proud of.

    What makes Ben so worthy of this award is that what he is doing is NOT easy. It is not easy to forge your own path especially when that path heads against the winds of big corporations like the airline industry.

    When I look at some of those who have accepted Mole awards in the past such as the mayor, a few council members, Dunn Hospitality, etc al, I really don’t see a group of people willing to take on goliaths in order to achieve progress. Rather, I just see a bunch of elitists willing to do whatever the system tells them to do so that their own self is taken care of first.

    I am hopeful that with Ben winning this award, an example is now being set as to what it takes to win a Mole Award and what it takes to extract real and tangible change in the community. This right here is what I envisioned when I first heard about the mole award. Thank you CCO!

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