TSA shares tips for travellers with disabilities for a busy summer travel season

Published on : Tuesday, May 30, 2017

airplane-perfectMore individuals than ever are travelling with disabilities and medical conditions, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is helping them get through security screening at airports during the busy summer travel season.


Individuals with disabilities or medical conditions, who use medical devices should not think of a TSA checkpoint as a barrier to travel. It’s okay to bring along a CPAP machine or a breast pump. Yes, passengers can travel with an insulin pump or an ostomy pouch. If an individual has a temporary medical condition, perhaps a broken leg, it does not prevent him from getting through a checkpoint.


The number of passengers expected to fly this summer season is expected to be the highest in years with more than 2.2 million passengers per day expected to pass through TSA checkpoints between Memorial Day and Labor Day with almost a quarter million of those passengers going through security screening in the New York metropolitan region alone.


TSA is prepared for the start of the summer travel season, with peak travel period kicking off with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and extending through August. During the busiest days of the summer, which are expected to be the days leading up to and immediately after Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, TSA will screen more than 2.5 million passengers per day nationwide.


TSA officers at Newark Liberty International Airport will screen more than 70,000 passengers; JFK International Airport more than 100,000 passengers; and at LaGuardia Airport more than 50,000 passengers on a busy summer day.


All travellers are required to undergo screening at the checkpoint. Passengers with a disability or medical condition or their travelling companion may consult a TSA officer about the best way to relieve any concerns during the screening process. Individuals may provide an officer with a TSA notification card or other medical documentation to describe the condition in a discrete manner. Travellers may also request an accommodation for the security screening process.


If a passenger with a medical device, medical condition or a disability is approved to use TSA Pre✓, he or she does not need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts, or light jackets during the screening process. However, everyone is required to undergo screening at the checkpoint by technology or a pat-down. Also, TSA officers may swab an individual’s hands, mobility aids, equipment and other external medical devices to test for explosives using explosives trace detection technology.


Persons with disabilities and medical conditions are not required to remove their shoes if they have a disability or medical condition. However, shoes must undergo additional screening, including visual/physical inspection as well as explosives trace detection testing of the footwear. Travellers may request to be seated during this portion of the screening.


TSA’s Five Top Resources for Travelers with Disabilities


TSA has five main resources for travelers with disabilities or individuals who travel with medical devices or medical conditions to ensure that they can get through the security screening process successfully, respectfully and efficiently. They include the TSA Cares helpline, the TSA Contact Center, Passenger Support Specialists, information  posted on tsa.gov and an interactive Twitter and Facebook Messenger account.


  1. TSA’s toll free helpline, called TSA Cares, enables travellers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions to call 1-855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint 72 hours prior to travelling. The helpline is staffed weekdays from 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. ET and from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Injured service members and veterans including individuals associated with the Wounded Warrior Program may contact TSA Cares to help facilitate the screening process. By asking questions on the helpline, travellers arrive at the airport knowing the screening process and procedures that they will experience, thus reducing anxiety of the unknown.


  1. The TSA Contact Center is a customer call centre that is available to answer questions by email or toll free phone. Staff is available from 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. weekends/holidays; and an automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.



  1. Passenger Support Specialists are highly trained TSA officers at airports who have special training in successfully engaging with, and screening, individuals who have disabilities or medical conditions, or who travel with medical devices. Travellers requiring accommodations to the screening process, or who are concerned about the security screening process at the airport may ask for a Passenger Support Specialist or a supervisory TSA officer who can provide on-the-spot assistance.


  1. TSA’s web site has an entire section devoted to traveling with disabilities, medical conditions and medical devices. The link provides a host of information via a drop-down menu that allows viewers of the web page to select detailed information on the specific situation with which they have a question. Situations include traveling with medications; Alzheimer’s, dementia, aphasia or a brain injury; autism or intellectual disabilities, blind or low vision; deaf or hard of hearing; use of external medical devices; implants and use of internal medical devices; mobility disabilities, aids and devices; prostheses, casts, braces or support appliances; recent use of radioactive medication and materials; respiratory equipment; and use of service dogs and animals.



  1. A helpful interactive Twitter account, @AskTSA, allows individuals to tweet a question about the screening process for medical devices and for medical conditions, from traveling with a temporary condition (e.g., a cast on a broken arm or leg) to traveling through a checkpoint wearing an ostomy pouch beneath one’s clothing. Travelers with questions about the screening process can contact a TSA employee for live assistance 365 days a year via Twitter.

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