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TSA Tries to be Helpful

Posted 5/17/2013

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Many of us have horror stories about interactions with the TSA at various airports. Some of them have even made the national news; do you remember the very old woman in a wheelchair who was taken aside and frisked because she was wearing Depends? My own infuriating experiences have always been related to the newer x-ray screening machines and the fact that I wear a prosthesis. To be fair, the bad episodes are happening less often as (I assume) the TSA people who read those images have become more experienced at differentiating a prosthesis from a bomb. It does still happen, however, so I approach each machine with some trepidation. As I have written before, my strategies depend upon the mood of the moment. If I am feeling especially tough and feisty, I whip out the prosthesis and toss it in the bin along with my shoes. That always garners a number of horrified looks, but sometimes I don't care. If I am feeling more shy or vulnerable, I take it out in the ladies' room and stick it in my purse. And sometimes I just take my chances.

Some weeks ago, I heard from a woman who was very unhappy about an episode where she was publicly touched and patted down due to her breast cancer body changes. Being an assertive and smart person, she wrote a letter to the TSA and actually had a response. Here is what she told me: Regarding the dust up I made in March at JFK airport over the "pat down" I was given, the TSA has responded. It was determined from watching the video of my screening that "the TSO failed to conduct the screening entirely according to TSA procedures."

More important is that there is now available on the TSA site a "notification card" that can be printed and presented to the TSA screeners. As far as I can tell it will not keep TSA employees from intimately touching bodies but it will require officials to be educated about and respectful of travelers with surgical anomalies.

And here is the TSA website related to passengers with disabilities or medical conditions. Here is a quote from it:

TSA Cares Help Line


TSA Cares is a helpline to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. TSA recommends that passengers call 72 hours ahead of travel to for information about what to expect during screening.
Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource specifically for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying.

The hours of operation for the TSA Cares helpline are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. EST and weekends and Holidays 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST. Travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to contact TSA Cares or can e-mail TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.

When a passenger with a disability or medical condition calls TSA Cares, a representative will provide assistance, either with information about screening that is relevant to the passenger’s specific disability or medical condition, or the passenger may be referred to disability experts at TSA.

They likely think that the most helpful part of this is the availability of a Notification Card. One is invited to print this out, fill it out, and hand it to the TSA person prior to screening. In theory, this prevents some problems, but I am skeptical. Frankly, if you were a terrorist trying to sneak the explosive through in your bra, wouldn't you fill out the card and claim it was a prosthesis? To see this card, scroll down at this link: 

http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/travelers-disabilities-and-medical-conditions

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