My Objective: To bring further awareness to travelers with disabilities (both visible/hidden ¯) to the possibility of improper training and sensitivity to passengers with visible/invisible disabilities during TSA screening.I debated whether I would write this letter but after reading through the TSA tips and guidelines for people with disabilities I felt it was my obligation to inform you of the need to thoroughly understand your rights as a passenger with disabilities with regard to TSA screening department.
I was traveling through the Airport this month and what I encountered at the TSA security screening process was frankly embarrassing and appalling treatment.
I use my wheelchair at airports simply because of the amount of bags/packages I carry and my leg with lymphedema gets very heavy and painful when I walk for long periods without elevating.
I rolled up to the security counter using my own personal wheelchair. The security person noticed I had a cane and asked if I could stand and walk and I replied I could walk using the cane but I have a problem with balance due to my medical conditions (neuropathy and lymphedema). He gave me a TSA approved cane which was fine and asked me to walk over to the scan and put my feet spread apart on the imprints and put my hands over her head. Again I repeated I have a balance problem but perhaps if you give me time I know I can manage and will get my balance and might be able to do stand for a short while. The security guard stared at me like I was speaking a foreign language or just landed from Jupiter. I tried once but the guard was very inpatient and asked me to get back in my wheelchair and that they would perform a security pat down.
I was brought to the side but still in visible area. I attempted to present the security officers with two letters of medical necessity and my UNITED OSTOMY ASSOCIATIONS Travel Communication Card to clarify my medical conditions and why I needed to carry specific medical equipment with me. This TSA security personnel also stared at me for a while not reaching out to take the letters or communication card. I proceeded to ask again will you look at the documentation that explains all of my medical disabilities both hidden and visible and necessity to travel with equipment. The TSA guard said no they didn’t need to see it. I immediately began to explain hold on before you pat me down it’s important to let you know I have 44+ clips inside from multiple surgeries, ileostomy/colostomy and further explained the equipment I carried (lymphedema Pneumatic Compression Device and The Rebuilder System for my neuropathy).
How TSA handled my disclosing my hidden medical conditions:
- TSA began to shout this one (referring to me) has a colostomy and another person repeated it loudly.
- TSA told me they would not permit me to bring one of the pieces of medical equipment that it would need to be checked.
- TSA informed her they would do a pat-down and explained that they would run the back of her hand up and down my various body parts.
- TSA lifted my shirt and pulled my undergarments away from my stomach. They asked me to use my hand on the ostomy and they would put their hand on top of mine and feel. All in public eyesight.
What TSA failed to do according to “Tips For the Screening Process” (http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/editorial_1567.shtm)
- TSA failed to offer a private screening before the beginning of a pat-down. It was never mentioned as an option or a right.
- TSA failed tooffer a disposable paper drape for additional privacy. It was never mentioned this was an option or a right.
- TSA failed to give me the opportunity to request a private screening place. Again It was never mentioned this was an option or a right.
What We will do differently next time we travel.
- Bring a print-out from TSA website “Tips For the Screening Process” (http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/editorial_1567.shtm)
- Request a private area for a personal search and now that we know we will insist that whoever is accompanying me will go along with during screening.
- Ask the Security Officer to please be discreet about my disability.
- Ask the Security Officer to change her/his gloves before the physical inspection.
- Ask for a visual inspection of Medication and related supplies before screening if we choose.
- I willmake sure all your carry-on items; equipment, mobility aids, and devices have an identification tag attached
- I will advise Security Officers upfront that my disability may require some assistance and I move a bit slower.
I learned an important lesson that day 1. know my rights, 2. prepare and 3. prepare again.
Love and God’s Blessings,
Email Me: firstname.lastname@example.org
E-mail the techie behind the Chat With Dee Dee (Blog, Facebook & Twitter pages) who happens to be my daughter.