Air Travel Security: Advocating on Your Behalf (updated 2/22/11)
As noted below, Oley has joined with twenty-three other organizations in a dialogue with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regarding the special needs of people traveling with central lines, tubes, ostomies, or other medical devices.
In December, this group sent a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole. “We believe,” the letter states, “that more information and training about how to be sensitive to travelers’ medical conditions is needed. This is especially true because ostomies and other medical conditions and devices that previously had not shown up in security screenings will show up more frequently in full body scans.”
“Clearly,” the letter concludes, “a one-size-fits-all approach for screening has not worked for people living with ostomies and those who use medical appliances and devices.” (Click here to read the complete letter.)
In response to the letter, the TSA coordinated a meeting for late January, providing representatives from this group with an important opportunity to outline issues of concern to our respective members. We then sent an e-mail to every Oley member who has registered an address with us, requesting that you share your TSA experiences (a benefit of being on our e-mail list—the opportunity for quick correspondence!).
Sharing Member Experiences
The response to our request was overwhelming, and offered Oley Foundation Executive Director Joan Bishop a greater understanding of your needs. Joan shared these experiences with John Pistole and his staff at the January 25th meeting. Oley, the TSA, and the other organizations involved agreed this meeting was a great starting point, a partnership and work in progress to meet the needs of this government agency charged with “keeping us safe” and of the public traveling with special needs. We’ll keep you updated on this page, and encourage you to stay tuned to the TSA Web site as you make your travel plans.
Please keep the feedback coming! We can only move forward if you continue to contribute. Share your stories with Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tips below, many gleaned from this meeting, should help you navigate your way through airport security.
Tips for Navigating Airport Security
Before you go to the airport, visit the TSA Web site and read the pages devoted to traveling with disabilities and medical conditions (www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/index.shtm) or call the TSA Contact Center at (866) 289-9673 for a copy of the most recent guidelines and/or with your questions and concerns.
Download or call for a copy of the TSA card, www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds (just above the additional resources
section), and use it to discreetly call attention to your medical condition to Transportation Security Officers (TSOs).
A letter from your physician/clinician describing your medical condition and the supplies you are traveling with is crucial in expediting the security screening process (sample on www.oley.org/Travel_letters.html).
You might want to seriously consider a full body scan. Catheters, tubes, ostomy and drainage bags, etc. will be detected immediately and are likely to be foreign to screening officers. They will need to be investigated. However, once you have been through the body scanner you have opened the door for a self pat-down. You will be asked to touch your own catheter, ostomy bag, etc., then have your hand scanned with the wand used to detect explosives.
If the full body scan is declined, a full pat-down will happen. You have the right to be patted down by someone of the same gender (note that this could take extra time). You also have the right to ask for the pat-down to be conducted in a private place and to have someone else present. Children are not to be separated from a parent!
Passengers with disabilities can contact a TSA Customer Support Manager, prior to arriving at the airport, to discuss the best possible way to be screened. Details are posted at www.contact.tsa.dhs.gov/talktotsa/talktotsa.aspx.
A “reasonable” amount of “medical foods” can be carried on board. This is the terminology used in the training of the TSOs, so it would be best to identify your supplies in this way. Documentation from your clinician or homecare provider that outlines “your” reasonable amount may help. Additional screening may apply.
You have right to request a fresh set of gloves when being screened.
Cameras are positioned throughout screening areas. While they do not capture everything, it’s worth noting.
If you feel your experience has been mishandled, please note the name of the airport, city, state, flight number, time, gate, name of TSO, and as much information as possible. File a report to help the TSA follow up regarding retraining, corrective action, etc.
The safety-related studies pertaining to the use of Advanced Imaging Technology can be found at www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/safety.shtm.
LifelineLetter, January/February 2011
In response to the letter
outlined below the TSA is coordinating a meeting with signatories to begin
exploring ways to keep everyone safe when flying and handling the screening
process being respectful of the dignity and needs of those traveling with
medical appliances, devices, etc.
On January 25th your voice will be heard. We encourage you to share your experiences, positive and/or negative, and your thoughts regarding how screening might be handled with your circumstances in mind. Please call Joan at 800.776.6539 or write email@example.com.
Smooth Traveling (12/21/10)
Oley is aware of the uncomfortable atmosphere airport security presents to members who want or need to travel via air. We are working with other organizations to try to make airport screening officers more aware and more understanding of your circumstances.
In December, Oley and twenty-three other organizations sent a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John Pistole. “We believe,” the letter states, “that more information and training about how to be sensitive to travelers’ medical conditions is needed. This is especially true because ostomies and other medical conditions and devices that previously had not shown up in security screenings will show up more frequently in full body scans.”
We encourage the TSA to:
develop educational materials for security officers that explain medical issues and the specific TSA procedure for screening travelers with these issues
develop training to ensure that officers listen with respect to travelers who explain they have medical issues
include people who live with different medical devices as part of the training sessions
make the TSA information card for people with medical issues more readily available.
“Clearly,” the letter concludes, “a one-size-fits-all approach for screening has not worked for people living with ostomies and those who use medical appliances and devices.” (Click here to review the complete letter.)
We encourage you to share your experiences with us—good or bad, and in as much detail as possible. This will help us in our advocacy efforts. E-mail your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Joan at (800) 776-OLEY.
Share your stories with your elected officials, too. Most representatives will be familiar with Thomas Sawyer’s experience in Detroit (you can read the story at www.freep.com/article/201011201935/NEWS06/101120044). This may be a good starting point for discussing your concerns. We’re interested in who you talk to and their response.
Before you go to the airport, visit the TSA Web site and read the page devoted to traveling with disabilities and medical conditions (www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/index.shtm). Or call the TSA Contact Center at (866) 289-9673 with your questions and concerns.
Note that you do not have to go through a scanner; if you choose not to go through a scanner, you will be subjected to a pat-down. You have the right to be patted down by someone of the same gender. If you are scanned and something is detected, you will be subjected to a pat-down; again, you have the right to be patted down by someone of the same gender. You also have the right to ask for the pat-down to be conducted in a private place and to have someone else present.
The TSA has developed a
card for those with medical conditions to use to discreetly communicate their
situation to security officers.
Click here to download a copy of the card.
Unfortunately, catheters, tubes, drainage bags, etc. are likely to be foreign to screeners and will need to be investigated. We hope advocacy efforts, such as the letter described above, can increase understanding and help make your traveling go smoothly.