Wednesday, July 29, 2009

12 Tips for Navigating Airport Security

~ 12 Tips for Navigating Airport Security

With the holiday season upon us, travellers are once again converging on airports en masse. During this time of year, crowds and long lines are the norm, and getting through security can seem like the ultimate challenge. Add a cane, walker, crutches or a wheelchair to that equation and the degree of difficulty increases tenfold. So what’s a disabled traveler to do?

“The best way to make your trip more comfortable is to learn your rights, so you know what to expect when you get to the airport,” says Candy Harrington, author of 101 Accessible Vacations; Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. “In fact,” adds Candy, “with a little education and some advance planning, you can have a relatively comfortable and stress-free security screening experience.”

With that in mind, Harrington suggests you remember the following points as you approach the security screening checkpoint.

  • Allow plenty of extra time to get through security, especially if you wear a prosthesis or use any type of assistive device.
  • If you can’t walk or go through the metal detector, tell the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent. You will be hand-wanded and given a pat-down search.
  • If you tire easily or can’t stand for long periods of time, request a chair during the screening process.
  • Slow walkers should request a wheelchair at check-in. This will expedite the screening process as wheelchair-users are usually fast-tracked through security.
  • Canes and walkers are allowed through security checkpoints, but they will be inspected thoroughly by security personnel.
  • Prosthetic devices do not have to be removed for screening; however the screener will manually inspect the device and swab it for explosive residue.
  • You have the right to a private screening and to have a companion present during that screening.
  • You are not required to remove your shoes if your disability prevents you from doing so. You will however be subject to a pat-down search and your shoes will be swabbed.
  • Liquid medications are allowed through the security checkpoint; however if they are in volumes larger than 3 ounces each, they may not be placed in the quart-size bag and must be declared to the TSA agent before the screening process begins. They must be removed from your luggage and kept separate from items to be x-rayed.
  • Sharp objects or anything that could be used as a weapon will be confiscated at the security checkpoint, so pack your wheelchair-repair tools in your checked luggage.
  • Syringes are allowed through the security checkpoint upon inspection. Although not required, it’s best to bring a doctor’s note when carrying syringes in an airport.
  • If you encounter any problems, ask to speak to a supervisor or call the TSA Contact Center at (866) 289-9673.

In the end, patience is really the key for dealing with airport security; however, if you feel your needs as a passenger with a disability are not being adequately addressed, don’t be afraid to speak up.

101 Accessible Vacations; Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers is published by Demos Publishing and is available from your favourite bookstore or at Visit Candy Harrington’s Barrier Free Travels blog at for more helpful access tips, travel news and information for disabled travellers.

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