Q: What can someone who wears an embarrassing prosthetic do to expedite the airport screening process and minimize social anxiety?
—Mark Lemaka, New York
A: You might have heard about a recent survey published by the Amputee Coalition of America that revealed 75 percent of 7,300 amputees surveyed said they were unsatisfied with their most recent airport security experience. Honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if a survey of the general population gave a similar result because of long lines and complaints of damaged laptops. As inconvenient as they might be, these security procedures have proven successful in preventing domestic terrorism. That, however, is no excuse for you or anyone else to be embarrassed at the security line.
Mark, the best thing you can do is understand your rights. The official policy of the Transportation Security Administration about screening disabled passengers is as follows:
- Security officers will not ask or require you to remove your prosthetic device, cast or support brace.
- You have the option of requesting a private screening at any time during the screening of your prosthetic device, cast or support brace.
- Walkers, crutches, canes and other devices that can fit through the X-ray machine must undergo X-ray screening (with the exception of white collapsible canes). Ask the security officer for assistance (such as an arm, a hand or a shoulder to lean on) until you are reunited with your device.
- Security officers should not be asking you to remove your orthopedic shoes, appliances or medical devices (insulin pump, feeding tube, colostomy or urine bag, or exterior component of a cochlear implant) at any time during the screening process.
If at any point during the screening process you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for a private screening. Recent high-profile incidents — such as one in March, where a 4-year-old boy was asked to remove his leg braces before passing through security — have put pressure on the TSA to shape up.
If you find yourself needing to file a complaint, you can contact the TSA’s Office of Civil Rights by calling 877-336-4872 or sending an e-mail to email@example.com.