Stand Up or Get Naked & Bend Over!!!!

Well folks we made it home in one piece, barely! After a disgusting  flight back from Australia to New York on Qantas (that’s another story for another time).  We arrived at Los Angeles Airport to connect flights to New York  City, a Qantas special services assistant escorted me and my spouse through customs and baggage pickup to security where I was immediately met with an aggressive officer who treated me like a criminal and told me to stop talking when I was merely asking which aisle should I roll into as neither would fit my wheelchair.
After being gruffly pushed through a aisle that was barely as wide as my chair, a large African American TSA female officer asked me could I stand. I told her “no,”  I had limited mobility. She then told me, “but you have to lift yourself completely so we can search your chair.” Bewildered, I informed her I travel regularly and was usually asked to lean forward and hold my thighs so they could check behind me, then outstretch my arms, lean left then right so they could check the sides of my chair and between my body and the frame. In response to that she called a supervisor and told them I was refusing to co-operate and stand up so she wanted a cavity search. Really?  She was requesting a private room where I would be told to strip and agree to a nude search.
 I nervously made a joke saying “could we at least date or you buy me dinner before we got naked.” She  didn’t get the joke.  I kept repeating “I’m cooperating fully, if you bring a chair here I’ll transfer and you can search my wheelchair.” I was told to be quiet or I was going to be stripped in a private room. I luckily had a witness from Qantas Special Services (which is a division any disabled person should know of and always ask for as they exist only as special help for the disabled travellers). If that witness wasn’t there I doubt anyone would believe this drama ever happened. I’m not nearly the only one nor the worst example of this.
1/ Recently a quadraplegic Iraq Vet arrived at an US airport and was forced out of his chair by TSA and made to crawl through the scanning machine, as they didn’t believe he was disabled and therefore would not let him board his flight until he was screened to their satisfaction.

At this stage, I asked for a supervisor and only after 15 minutes of being threatened with the degradation of being lifted out of my chair, placed on a exam bench naked and have every body cavity invaded did a senior female excuse the aggressive TSA officer and do the very search I was used to whenever I travelled. 

 So the government is hiring people who, as this women admitted in front of witnesses, do not understand why people use wheelchairs, and thinks we just like wheeling instead of walking and we better bloody well jump up when told or bend over and grab the table.

What are we meant to do TSA?

Are we magically meant to be cured?

If you can pull that off please tell the medical community, because if you think for one moment we want these damn wheels and we want someone to lift us in and out of bed like roast out of an oven, if you think the most disabled of us want someone else to wash us and wipe our ass, you’re as stupid as the people you are employing.
We are intelligent people who when presented with these situations try to make YOUR job easy because when it is so become our lives.

My suggestion is this TSA,

1/put the TSA officers in a room with doctors who specialize in spinal injuries and neurological disorders, actual disabled people representing the different forms of illness that make a person wheelchair bound and don’t let them out until they have spent a day being trained.

2/Keep then in that room until they understand the different needs of different people, and how to respectfully do their job while allowing us to keep our dignity. This isn’t rocket science but apparently it is a mystery to some.

In closing we are not asking for special consideration, We already know that terrorist groups regularly straps bombs on disabled people as suicide bombers and that some criminals will go to amazing extents to use even a wheelchair to conceal drugs and weapons so of course we should be checked. The question is should our dignity be the price we are asked to surrender if we want to travel, or have to for work? Clearly the answer is NO!

So TSA, get it right and through your skulls, if I can’t walk and I can’t stand you can strip me naked as often as you want but I won’t bend over for you or anybody no matter how pretty blue the latex gloves are!

Respect our Existance or Expect our Resisitance

32 thoughts on “Stand Up or Get Naked & Bend Over!!!!

  1. That is awful!! Close to threatened sexual assault. You should not have experienced that–thanks for making the disability community aware. I hadn’t heard about the quadriplegic vet either.

    One quibble: do you mind removing African American? While you probably just meant to describe her, it makes it sound as if her race was part of how she treated you.

  2. Hi thanks for replying and yes i felt threatened. as for the racial identification it was in no way racist i will edify there were five people involved if i name actual names it could result in legal problems and she was the only african american the others four were all of other nationalities and they all acted competent and caring so the only way i can both identify the offender and simultaneously make it clear the others only acted correctly was to say it was the african american officer therefore i can identify the offender. The described action has nothing to do with race or social class only individual stupidity

  3. In Denver I tried to check in with Continental and was told I needed to use a telephone to be talked through the process because the code I was issued with my e-ticket didn’t work. I tried to explain that I had a severe hearing impairment and that in the noisy terminal I couldn’t use a telephone – and that I was having to lip read to speak to them. They replied that if I wanted to travel I needed to do the check-in myself and that there were no exceptions. I very politely asked if the baggage handler (the only staff member behind the check-in desk for 20 people) could relay the instructions for me and was told that if I couldn’t do it myself I couldn’t fly. I was also threatened that if I continued to press the issue I would be taken aside to an ‘interview’ room. He also called a TSA Officer over because I was apparently a trouble maker. He also asked me why I wasn’t flying with a carer if I was unable to check in myself. I was perfectly able to check in myself if their system worked properly! Carer!!!! I couldn’t believe it. Luckily for me (unlucky for the average traveller) I know the Americans with Disabilities Act backwards and quoted it to them and asked them if the airline wanted the publicity surrounding a formal complaint and reiterated my request for a supervisor. The guy behind the counter was scared by how articulate I was and went and got a supervisor, but not before stating that since I wasn’t an American I probably wouldn’t have recourse to the ADA Act. I replied that if that was indeed the case, then I would get an American with a hearing disability to bring the case for me. When the supervisor came and I explained my situation and the remedy I suggested (and my legal position) she couldn’t have been more helpful. She relayed the instructions from the phone and I did the check-in myself. But like you, it should never have come to that. How would a blind person use their system? How would a wheelchair user even reach the computer terminal? I politely pointed all that out and suggested some organisations that the airline might approach for some disability awareness training. I might also add that the Japanese travellers at the terminal next to mine were having just as much trouble with their check-in procedures. It really spoiled what had been a lovely trip to the great state of Colorado. But it also made me wonder what sort of consultation airlines do with organisations that represent travellers who have needs other than the minimum no fuss traveller. It’s such a simple and short process and would help develop procedures that benefit EVERY traveller. Makes me wonder if my money is worth less than other people’s… On the plus side, I found people everywhere else in the US and Australia at either end of the trip outstanding in accommodating my needs and in Melbourne even had a Qantas employee volunteer to come and get me because I wouldn’t be able to hear the PA announcement – same in Portland OR. Saved me having to watch them quite so hard so as to not miss anything. Unfortunately it’s the bad ones you remember though even though I try to do better.

  4. Dear Monica,

    Your report of your treatment leaves me stunned beyond belief. I have never at any time been arrogant enough to believe that this type of insanity was only happening to me, but reading this leaves Ella and I both astonished. After dealing with the people I dealtt with, and seeing the gross levels of stupidity, it now has my mind racing with scary thoughts of how this can happen. Going to think about it about it some m more and post again later. Thanks SO much sharing. Email you soon.

    • Yes, it was a threat–what I meant to write was that the threat itself was close to sexual assault.

      Monica, I am certain ADA applies to visitors to our country, but I can’t figure out if the airport employees know this. I feel pretty certain that they are trained on access–and after so many recent incidents, I really feel that they are deliberately ignoring the law, or at least attempting to. Thanks for speaking up–it will make it easier for the people who follow you. I can’t imagine restaurants asking for national ID cards if someone tries to bring in a service dog. It’s a law that applies throughout the US.

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  6. Please please please file a complaint with the TSA, the ACLU and EPIC so we can put an end to this nonsense. It really matters. This is not acceptable behavior.

  7. Thanks paul if i complainwith just a few hundred hits on the article i get numbers qouted about a” acceptable percentage” of mistakes so i write i get it published ,i tell you the reading public and ask you send the piece viral because when i can show the tsa or government several thousand reads instqed of several hundred its no longer a small “acceptable percentage” remeber every one one voice is noise thousands are power . thankyou for the ongoing hits on my blog send the link to all caring people and groups and politiciians so i can show capitol hill 5 and 6 figues stats instead of merely hundreds.
    once they’ve seen our resistance they have to respect our existance.

  8. as of this morning there is a official complaint with the goernmment and they have been served notice sleep it under th rug and i will sue for millions and get the story on every network until they have to do something.

  9. “One quibble: do you mind removing African American? While you probably just meant to describe her, it makes it sound as if her race was part of how she treated you”.

    Shame on you for even suggesting that to this man. Are you black by chance? Are you a TSA agent or other employee on the US Governments pay roll? Who are you and how dare you play that card. Did you even read what this individual wrote or did you just read that and stop? Get Bent and discuss the issue at hand instead of injecting such a pointless notion. Grow up.

    And you sir I salute you for being able to maintain your dignity. Rock on, never surrender to security theater and bulling.

    • @existentialism ,thankyou for replying but i am female, but thank you for reading my blog and sharing your opinion i would ask how wever that any future opinons be civil and sans any personal attacks .
      for the last time ever i will address this issue of racial terminology. there were approxiametely 5 people on duty they were all different races i reflect not one of the failings to any persons race ,i used “african american “because after living in harlem , brooklyn and now queens that is what i am told by my friends is how they wish to be addressed i only mentioned race so the people who were kind and professional were not misidentified as the offender is she had been chinese i would have said so her later declarations of stupidity were just stupid nothing to do with race she was just stupid. any further arguements on this subject will not be approved.

    • “are you black by any chance. Are you a TSA agent or other employee on the US Governments pay roll”

      Oh i see, obviously being black is equatable to being a TSA goon is it now. What is your problem with this person’s very polite and respectful request. Is being black an offense to you, does it mean a person has no right to have an opinion. I’m not black but i find you offensive and bigoted. Who are you i might ask and how dare you pull this racist card.

  10. My blood started to boil as I read this. I am sight disabled rather than being wheelchair bound but having spent a significant part of my early life lat a UK boarding school for the partially sighted and disabled, I can understand fully the deep frustration felt by this person.
    I am married to an American and have visited the States three or four times anhd while their airport security can be totally humourless and officious, generally speaking I have always found Americans in general to be remarkably good when dealing with the disabled. Clearly, in this instance, I was wrong. Mind you, one should perhaps not judge all American TSA staff by the actions of this one brain-dead halfwit.
    Thankfully, here in the UK, we have The Disability Discrimination Act as a result of which, had this happened at a UK airport, a possible outcome would have been for the victim to sue the backsides off the UK Border Agency and the Airport itself.

  11. @cherry thank you for your support, to all my readers while i encourage spirited discussion we need to remeber that when we get off the topic of TSA abuse and fight amongst ourselves we take our eye off the prize and that can only be to be free to travel without our dignity being traded off for the price of a seat once again thankyou.

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