TSA should have one more letter since most people view this organization like a four letter word and often use four letter words to describe their experiences with them. This is especially true for travelers with disabilities who have been known to truly fear flying because all flights are preceded by an encounter with TSA agents. As a very frequent flyer and a disabled traveler, I am here to help you make this process a little easier and less disconcerting. I am an amputee and, therefore, must be hand screened every time I fly. Prosthetics happen to be one of the more popular devices used by would be terrorists to smuggle explosives and banned objects onboard a plane so I am happy to present myself for inspection and be cleared of any suspicion. This does not mean that I want my dignity infringed upon nor be put into an embarrassing situation. I am happy to report that these events have never happened to me and I have probably flown over 200,000 miles in the last several years. So, what makes me so special that I have been able to avoid being humiliated and upset by the many agents who have waved their wands over me and felt me up and down hundreds of times? I have done this by knowing my rights as they pertain to a person with a disability in the eyes of the Transportation Security Administration. Knowing your rights goes hand in hand with the proper attitude. Unfortunately, we must all accept that being screened is now the norm and we must do our part to make this process as easy as possible for ourselves.
If you’ve read this far, you are now in for some good news! Disabled travelers NEVER have to remove their shoes. Nor, may I add, remove prosthetic arms, legs, breasts, etc. or get out of your wheelchair. You get the picture. Unfortunately, many TSA agents choose to ignore this fact and plead ignorance. So how do you explain to the agent that you don’t have to remove your shoes without getting arrested? The Transportation Security Administration has an outstanding web site and an excellent section on persons with special needs http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/index.shtm
I advise travelers with special needs to go the TSA website, find the area that pertains to their situation, print out that section and take it with them to the airport. You will be amazed at the vast amount of information that is listed. It covers everything from not having to remove your shoes to what types of liquids you can take through security including medical supplies. It explains that items do need to be x-rayed and declared but will be allowed. It explains the procedures for x-raying all types of mobility aids and screening service animals. The list goes on and on and is quite extensive. If you have a problem, show them the information and point out that it is from their own website. TSA agent still being unagreeable? Don’t allow yourself to get to his or her level. Very nicely ask to see a supervisor. Show the supervisor your printout and, at this point, things should proceed more smoothly. I will admit that one of the biggest problems with the security screening areas is the lack of consistency between airports and the employees who work there. I like the airports that now have the new full body scanners as it shortens the entire process and I believe that they are more likely to find hidden objects than the pat down method. I know many people are opposed to these and feel that their privacy is being invaded and agents are viewing their “body parts”. I say “get over it”, get through security, go grab a Starbucks and get on the plane!