Today air travel comes with the obligatory — and often dreaded — trek through the security checkpoint. And although the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) won’t release their exact screening protocols due to security reasons; they have made public their rules and regulations for screening disabled passengers (www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures). That said, a little advance planning goes a long way to help the whole process go a bit smoother. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you out along the way.
- Allow plenty of extra time to get through security, especially if you wear a prosthesis or use any type of assistive device.
- If you can’t walk or go through the metal detector, tell the TSA agent. You will be hand-wanded and given a pat-down search.
- If you tire easily or can’t stand for long periods of time, request a chair during the screening process.
- Slow walkers should request a wheelchair at check-in. This will expedite the screening process as wheelchair-users are usually fast-tracked through security.
- Canes and walkers are allowed through security checkpoints, but they will be inspected thoroughly by security personnel.
- Prosthetic devices do not have to be removed for screening; however the screener will manually inspect the device and swab it for explosive residue.
- You have the right to a private screening and to have a companion present during that screening.
- You are not required to remove your shoes if your disability prevents you from doing so. You will however be subject to a pat-down search and your shoes will be swabbed.
- Liquid medications are allowed through the security checkpoint; however if they are in volumes larger than 3 ounces each, they may not be placed in the quart-size bag and must be declared to the TSA agent before the screening process begins. They must be removed from your luggage and kept separate from items to be x-rayed.
- Sharp objects or anything that could be used as a weapon will be confiscated at the security checkpoint, so pack your wheelchair-repair tools in your checked luggage.
- Syringes are allowed through the security checkpoint upon inspection. Although not required, it’s best to bring a doctor’s note when carrying syringes in an airport.
- Last but not least, contact the TSA Cares Hotline (855-787-2227) at least 72 hours in advance to request the assistance of a Passenger Support Specialist or a Supervisory TSA Officer at the security checkpoint. Questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint can also be answered on this hotline.
In the end, patience is really the key for dealing with airport security; however, if you feel your needs as a passenger with a disability are not being adequately addressed, don’t be afraid to speak up.