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Report faults TSA's treatment of amputees

By Ed O'Keefe

The Senate confirmed John Pistole as head of the Transportation Security Administration on Friday, and though his top priority will be the security of passengers and cargo, he'll also have to buck up an agency reeling from a series of embarrassing incidents in recent months.

There are also fresh concerns about how airport screeners check amputees who pass through airport security. A new survey by the Amputee Coalition of America finds that transportation security officers often appear confused about how to screen amputees and inconsistently enforce agency procedures regarding disabled air passengers.

Three out of four people surveyed said they were unsatisfied with their most recent airport security experience. Respondents said that they were not screened by TSA agents of the same gender and that officers often did not let them have a caretaker accompany them into screening rooms. About half of the respondents said they had to lift their clothing during random checks for explosives, and the survey recounted reports of an amputee facing 15 X-rays to get through the screening process.

“We respect that TSA’s job is to protect our skies, but the lack of training and inconsistent practices in dealing with travelers with limb loss is unacceptable,” said ACA President Kendra Calhoun. The group surveyed 7,300 amputees, out of about 1.7 million in the United States.

“We recognize there are many TSA employees who are doing outstanding jobs with amputee screenings, but clearly our survey data shows there is a lot of room for overall improvement by TSA," Calhoun said.

TSA spokesman Greg Soule said, "While TSA’s number one priority is security, we also strive to treat all passengers with dignity and respect."

Officers receive extensive training on how to respectfully screen all passengers, and the agency investigates all claims that officers did not follow proper procedures, Soule said. Officers are instructed to take amputees to a private area if they require further screening. They must also thoroughly explain the screening procedures before they are performed, including how and where the passengers may be touched.

"Under no circumstances is it TSA’s policy to ask a passenger to remove his/her prosthetic during screening," Soule said in an e-mail. "TSA’s procedures do specifically provide for people with disabilities to have a personal assistant accompany them regardless of whether they are screening in the main area or private screening room."

The agency has published tips for disabled travelers and is working with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other organizations to learn more about prosthetics and how they're affected by the TSA's advanced imaging technology.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 28, 2010; 3:41 PM ET
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Comments

As a disabled person, I can only say that personnel at Lambert Airport in St. Louis treated me like they would treat their own mother or grandmother, with respect and care.

However, the same thing can definitely not be said for the Minneapolis Airport. Five disabled adults were offered ONE wheelchair. We joked about sitting in each other's lap, but it really was no laughing matter.

Also, the driver of one of those little carts, when asked how to get down to the lower level, advised me, "Take that escalator right over there". He obviously hadn't noticed or disregarded my disability, but then, that's his problem, not mine.

I'll never travel through the Minneapolis Airport again even though I have family in that area.

Posted by: GrannyAnnie | June 29, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

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