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Thank you for your e-mail inquiring about the consideration of passengers’ physical limitations during checkpoint screenings.
Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are instructed to listen and respond appropriately to any information a passenger offers concerning his or her physical limitations. TSOs should provide any help that a passenger requests to facilitate the screening process. Under no circumstances should passengers be forced to perform actions that cause pain or put them at risk of injury. For example, TSOs should offer a chair to passengers whose weakness or balance problems put them at risk of falling during screening. Passengers who have difficulty with balance, standing, or walking also may decline metal detector screening, and ask instead for a full patdown screening while they are seated.
Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) receive training to ensure they screen passengers in wheelchairs and their property using established protocols. Under no circumstances during the screening process will a passenger be forced to perform actions that cause pain or put him or her at risk of injury. Screening procedures will vary based on each passenger’s level of mobility.
If a passenger can stand and walk but has difficulty with balance, TSOs may assist the passenger in stepping through the walk-through metal detector (WTMD) granted that it does not interfere with the screening process. Passengers who have difficulty with balance, standing, or walking may decline metal detector screening and instead request a patdown screening while they are seated in their wheelchairs.
If the passenger can stand, but cannot walk, the passenger will undergo a patdown inspection. Additionally, any passenger who is unable to step out of his or her wheelchair will undergo a patdown inspection while seated. The patdown involves asking the passenger to lift his or her arms and legs (if possible) and to remove his or her footwear for x-ray screening (if possible).
The passenger’s wheelchair is screened separately using physical and visual inspection and explosives trace detection techniques. After the passenger, the wheelchair, and all other accessible property (including mobility aids and devices) have been screened and cleared, the TSO will return all accessible property to the passenger, helping him or her back into the wheelchair if needed or requested.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would like to extend our apologies for any insensitivity or inappropriate treatment experienced during the screening process. The TSA seeks to provide the highest level of security and customer service to those who pass through our screening checkpoints. Our policies and procedures focus on ensuring that all passengers, regardless of their personal situations and needs, are treated with dignity, respect, and courtesy. Every person and item must be screened before entering the secured area, and the way in which the screening is conducted is important. All Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are required to be courteous and respectful and are trained to explain what they are doing and what will happen next in the process.
TSA has a program for screening people with disabilities and their associated equipment, mobility aids, and devices. Our program covers all categories of disabilities (mobility, hearing, visual, and hidden). As part of that program, we work with a coalition of more than 73 disability-related groups and organizations to help us understand the concerns of people with disabilities and medical conditions.
We hope this information is helpful.
TSA Contact Center