Amputee Coalition of America unhappy with TSA

7:39 AM, Jun 25, 2010   |    comments
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GAINESVILLE, Va. (WUSA) -- The Amputee Coalition of America is calling for the Transportation Security Administration to clean up its act.

Its recent survey reveals out of the 7,300 amputees surveyed, 75% were dissatisfied by their TSA experience and many have been disrespected.

An airport security screening is anything but routine for Peggy Chenoweth, who is a leg amputee. She says it was particularly humiliating on a recent trip home to Gainesville, Virginia.

Last month, Chenoweth was at the Orange County Airport, in California, traveling with her four-year-old son for the first time.

Chenoweth says, "He began to cry. He was upset because things were happening to mommy, and he didn't know what they were doing."

But Chenoweth knew exactly what was going on. She says a TSA member was about to get her very upset.

She says TSA agents not only told her to remove her prosthetic leg and run it through the detector, but also the sanitary lining that covers her limb.

Chenoweth says, "I don't think the general public realizes how personal an amputee residual limb is. It's similar to asking a regular person to go bear breasted through the metal detector, or expose their genitals. It's that private of an area."

Chenoweth and countless other amputees understand and expect to go through extra screening, but they say, unfortunately, they've also grown accustomed to inconsistencies. Chenoweth says Dulles International Airport has always been a positive experience and wonders why other airports can be humiliating. She says TSA officers at BWI have even come up to her asking how to screen her leg.

The TSA says their officers receive extensive training on how to respectfully screen all passengers including persons with disabilities. They say under no circumstances is it TSA's policy to ask a passenger to remove his/her prosthetic during screening.

For Chenoweth, she says, that's not good enough.

She says, "It's disturbing that this happens to amputees all over the country ever single day. You never know what to expect."

TSA Statement:

While TSA's number one priority is security, we also strive to treat all
passengers with dignity and respect. TSA officers receive extensive
training on how to respectfully screen all passengers including persons
with disabilities. We work extensively with many disability groups as
part of the TSA Disability Coalition, of which the Amputee Coalition of
America is a member. This partnership is used as a forum to provide
education on TSA screening procedures as well as solicit feedback used
when developing and implementing security procedures.

TSA developed specific guidance and procedures for the screening of
persons with disabilities and investigates every claim that an officer
did not follow the proper procedures, taking appropriate action, when
necessary. Under no circumstances is it TSA's policy to ask a passenger
to remove his/her prosthetic during screening. TSA officers offer a
private area to passengers who require additional screening. Officers
are trained to thoroughly explain the procedure before it is performed,
including where they will touch and how. Passengers can always request a private screening at any time.

Additionally, TSA is currently working with Walter Reed Army Medical
Center and other similar organizations to further our understanding of
prosthetics in the context of advanced imaging technology.

Amputee Coalition of America Survey

Knoxville, TN, June 23, 2010 - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) needs to clean up its act when it comes to airport security screenings for people with limb loss according to the Amputee Coalition of America. Results of a survey of 7,300 amputees released this week showed that travelers with limb loss have been subjected to inconsistent, unfair, abusive and often embarrassing screenings by TSA employees.

We respect that TSAs job is to protect our skies, but the lack of training and inconsistent practices in dealing with travelers with limb loss is unacceptable, said Kendra Calhoun, president & CEO of the Amputee Coalition of America. We are disappointed to learn about amputees who have been required to take off their arms and legs, expose their amputated limbs and give up equipment required for their prosthetic legs. 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.

The Amputee Coalition of America survey found:

TSA agents are often confused about how to manage screening prosthetic arms and legs.

Amputees are often denied the ability to have their caregivers accompany them into screening rooms.

Amputees report being screened by TSA agents not of the same gender.

75 percent of respondents said they were unsatisfied with their most recent TSA experience.

50 percent said they were required to lift or raise their clothing during a procedure called explosive trace sampling with no explanation given by TSA personnel.

More than half of the amputees who responded indicated TSA personnel exhibited a lack of training relative to disability populations - namely, amputees.

Respondents are 70 percent less likely to travel by commercial airline due to negative experiences with TSA personnel. (Each year, 21 million Americans with disabilities spend $13.6 billion on travel, according to research conducted by the Open Doors Organization. People with limb loss comprise 10 percent of the disability population in the U.S., a number that is expected to rise due to the diabetes epidemic [Ziegler-Graham et al., 2008. Estimating the Prevalence of Limb Loss in the United States: 2005 to 2050. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Vol 89. P. 422-429].)

Peggy, an amputee who lives in Gainesville, Virginia, echoes these survey results in her personal experience, where she was instructed to remove her prosthetic leg and liner, exposing her bare residual limb. Jeff, a medical doctor who lives in Denver, Colorado, also had an experience where TSA agents confiscated equipment he needs to put on his legs - he's a bilateral amputee. Leslie, an attorney and lower-extremity amputee who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was required by TSA agents to stand on stacked plastic crates for multiple x-rays.

Amputees have reported to us that there are different procedures at different airports and sometimes different procedures at the same airport, depending on when you fly, said Calhoun. We have gotten reports of more than 15 X-rays being taken for an amputee to get through the TSA screening. We want our skies to be safe, but there has to be a better way than the approach TSA is using. We need better training for TSA staff in dealing with disability populations.

Written by Surae Chinn


Associated Press

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