Amputee Coalition of America Holds Successful Meeting with Top Transportation Security Administration Officials in Washington

Agency pledges better training, cooperation and sensitivity when screening air travelers with limb loss

In response to an Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) member survey showing clear dissatisfaction with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport screening practices, TSA and ACA officials met in Washington, D.C., on July 19 to address procedures that have become of increasing concern to travelers with limb loss. Outcomes of the meeting included promises of improvement by TSA regarding issues identified in the survey, as well as a pledge to provide ongoing opportunities for meaningful input by ACA members regarding TSA training, screening procedures, and other areas.

According to Kendra Calhoun, ACA president & CEO, the meeting was clearly a success, and plans were put in place for a new cooperative effort between the two organizations. “TSA was responsive to each issue we brought to the table. We view this meeting as a significant step in the right direction and we are hopeful that we will continue our dialogue about the important issues facing travelers with limb loss as part of the broader conversation about accommodating people with disabilities while maintaining appropriate security.”

In a June 23 ACA press release, results of the member survey were disclosed, showing that 75 percent of the respondents were unsatisfied with their most recent TSA experience. Respondents also expressed overwhelming concern about the TSA agents’ lack of consistency and perceived lack of training regarding the screening of travelers with limb loss. As the results drew much national media attention, TSA was responsive and immediately requested a meeting with ACA officials that included Calhoun, ACA board member and frequent flyer Dr. Jeff Cain, amputee attorney and ACA supporter Peter Thomas, and ACA Capitoline political consultant Liz Roberts.

A number of topics of concern to both the ACA and TSA were discussed and an action plan was put into place to address, correct and mitigate these problems. Among them were:

  • Re-examination of the CastScope X-ray procedure. The ACA has concerns about the amount of radiation to which people are exposed. TSA will increase the frequency of their training and will develop user-friendly information about its safety. TSA and the ACA will partner in disseminating information about this procedure.
    • Development of an alternative to the potentially unsafe practice of using stacked bins to conduct CastScope scans. TSA has had several discussions with Terry Sheehan, MD, ACA Medical Advisory Committee Chair and member of the Board of Directors, about identifying an appropriate stool that could be used for this screening process. After being informed that any stool could be problematic for many bilateral above-knee amputees and those with hip/hemi level amputations, TSA is in the process of examining alternative screening techniques using the CastScope that do not involve amputees having to elevate their foot or leg while standing.
  • Changes in TSA training. TSA will work closely with their training personnel to develop sensitivity training, helping them to identify real-life scenarios and obtain images of prosthetics so that TSA officers can become more familiar with the many kinds of prosthetics they encounter. In a cooperative effort, the ACA offered to participate in this training by providing local amputee volunteers and by facilitating meetings with prosthetic manufacturers.
  • Development of a notification card for travelers with disabilities. TSA recently developed a notification card to provide a mechanism for people with disabilities, medical conditions or medical devices to discreetly inform Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) that they have a condition that may affect their security screening. In addition, having such a card may assist them in moving to the front of any security line or accessing those security lines designated for people with disabilities. The ACA will assist TSA by helping to distribute information about this card to its members.

At the July meeting, a number of other issues of concern to travelers with limb loss were discussed as well. As the TSA procedures and action plans are put into place, the Amputee Coalition will keep members informed by inMotion updates and information on the ACA Web site.

TSA is making plans to appear at the Amputee Coalition’s national conference in Irvine, California, to provide an opportunity for attendees to visit the TSA booth and express their concerns to the TSA representative, Rhonda Basha, director of the Office of Disability Policy and Outreach.

We thank the TSA for their prompt action, concern and dedication in solving these issues for the limb loss community.

As a sidebar, the ACA would like to commend the TSA for their professionalism and cooperation at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport in July, as 90 of our 100 campers flew to and from the Amputee Coalition of America’s Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp. Providing special assistance, lines and procedures, TSA was a great asset in our transportation and logistical efforts.

Friday, August 13, 2010
Source: Amputee Coalition of America