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Old Sep 28, 10, 1:00 am   #1
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
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Security / Scanner Concerns

Lurker here...I'm flying again in a few days and have finally gotten up the courage to post a few questions.

I haven't flown since the installation of the body scanners and was wondering what to expect. I've read that you need to keep your hands raised above your head for several seconds, but I'm physically unable to do this without significant pain. I also have Harrington Rods in my back and neck (they don't set off metal detectors but I'm guessing they would be seen by a body scanner) as well as bone cement holding my tibia together, false teeth and a glass eye. Can I (and should I) request an alternative? What's the best way to politely and quickly communicate my issues to TSA since they aren't readily visible?

Secondly, I almost always have help, either a pusher or an escort depending on the size of the airport and how I feel. Since I'm also visually impaired, it doesn't take much for me to lose sight of my laptop and other belongings. I've always gotten really stressed out about being away from my stuff when I've been unable to get out of the wheelchair and TSA has had to take me aside to do a pat down and swab. Do I have cause to worry, or are pushers/escorts usually good about keeping track of the stuff of the people they're helping. Does TSA keep an eye on it as well? This is almost always the most stressful part of a trip for me and I'm wondering if I'm just being too paranoid?

Thanks!
PKfanSteph is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Sep 28, 10, 11:01 pm   #2
Moderator: Women Travelers and Disability Travel
 
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Welcome to FlyerTalk and the Disability Travel forum.

The answer to your first question is yes, there are alternatives to the scanner. If you are either being pushed or escorted, then that's a sign right away to TSA that you may need an alternative form of screening.

Rather than reciting a list of medical issues, if you are directed to a scanner, I suggest you say what you said here: "I can't raise my arms above my head."

It won't hurt to familiarize yourself with the official TSA policy. Here's a link to the disability section of TSA's website: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtrav...eds/index.shtm

I appreciate your apprehension about your carry on items. Ultimately, you are trusting someone you do not know (either the escort/wheelchair pusher or the TSO) with your belongings. I'm frequently asked by the TSO if anyone is with me; when I say I'm traveling alone, the TSO frequently (but not always) goes to collect my bags. It's not something I count on, though. I don't hesitate to say (as politely as possible) that I can no longer see my belongings, or that I'm not going to move until my belongings can go with me.

When you get to the checkpoint, take a deep breath, and don't allow yourself to be rushed until you are comfortable with what's going on.

I hope you enjoy your trip!
Katja is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Sep 30, 10, 2:03 am   #3
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PKfanSteph View Post
I've read that you need to keep your hands raised above your head for several seconds, but I'm physically unable to do this without significant pain. I also have Harrington Rods in my back and neck (they don't set off metal detectors but I'm guessing they would be seen by a body scanner) as well as bone cement holding my tibia together, false teeth and a glass eye. Can I (and should I) request an alternative? What's the best way to politely and quickly communicate my issues to TSA since they aren't readily visible?
You are entitled to "opt out" of the body scanners without providing any reason at all, but as you can't raise your arms, you have an excellent reason for doing so. Use those exact words "I opt out" instead of trying to explain that you don't or can't be scanned. According to reports from some airports, you may have to insist on opting out as they may try to tell you it's safe or that don't have an option, so be prepared to stand your ground.

The scanner wouldn't see your implants, but it doesn't matter - say "I opt out."

You will (almost certainly, but nothing is certain with TSA) get a patdown instead of the scan. This may range from a cursory pat down to a very intrusive groping, depending on airport, screener, attitude, etc. I don't want to scare you, but there are some reports of screeners making the patdown unpleasant to convince people to use the scanner next time. If you feel it is too intrusive, ask for a supervisor or a law enforcement officer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PKfanSteph View Post
Secondly, I almost always have help, either a pusher or an escort depending on the size of the airport and how I feel. Since I'm also visually impaired, it doesn't take much for me to lose sight of my laptop and other belongings. I've always gotten really stressed out about being away from my stuff when I've been unable to get out of the wheelchair and TSA has had to take me aside to do a pat down and swab. Do I have cause to worry, or are pushers/escorts usually good about keeping track of the stuff of the people they're helping. Does TSA keep an eye on it as well? This is almost always the most stressful part of a trip for me and I'm wondering if I'm just being too paranoid?
Don't rely on TSA to keep an eye on things; there are reports of things being stolen by other passengers or by TSA employees themselves, and TSA will not take responsibility if that happens. If they do a patdown, insist on standing where you can see your belongings, or insist that they bring them with you when they take you aside. In my (very limited) experience, the wheelchair assistant may be willing to watch, too, but it varies.

The best advice is to allow plenty of time so you don't feel rushed, take it at your own pace (don't let them hurry you along), and be ready to stand your ground or ask for a supervisor. In all likelihood everything will go smoothly, but it's worth being prepared.
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