Getting through security just got tougher – but it’s a breeze with Disabled=

Getting through security just got tougher – but it’s a breeze with Disabled Travelers
Photo by: Gary Tamin (Stock Exchange)

Good evening, all!

Now that Thanksgiving has rolled on by and the leftover turkey sandwiches are just about done for, many of us are turning toward Christmas and New Year travel.

Last time, we went over some general tips about traveling in this exhilarating, but exhausting time of year. In today’s visit, we’ll talk about how to get through this year’s “enhanced” airport security with a smile.

The Story Behind Enhanced Security Measures

Throughout this holiday season, the Transportation Security Administration is requiring extra security procedures for air travelers. There are two new measures in place.

Electronic scanning: Full-body scanners are now in place at over two dozen major airports throughout the U.S., including JFK in New York City, LAX in Los Angeles, and MIA in Miami. In airports where these scanners are available, passing through them is mandatory – but you can “opt out,” as thousands of travelers reportedly did over Thanksgiving.

Naturally, opting out leads to “option b” …

“Enhanced” pat downs: Pat downs have always been a part of airport security, but they’ve traditionally been fairly rare. These days, authorities are quicker to use physical pat downs. There have been some isolated reports of handicapped travelers suffering inconvenience and misunderstandings during the pat down process.

Make Airport Security Easy: Four Tips

To help make holidays for the disabled as easy as possible, remember, everything you normally do to get ready for a flight – such as packing as light as you can and arriving early – still applies. There are just a few more things to keep in mind.

Bring documentation: If you have difficulty standing, a pat down situation is uncomfortable for you and the screener. Remember that, even if you’re selected for enhanced screening, you can elect to be screened in a private room and, if you travel with a caretaker, you should make him or her aware of the situation. Bring a doctor’s note if you have a condition that hampers movement or may affect your ability to pass a metal detector, such as a surgical implant. Some travelers also document their need for medication packed in their bags.

Keep medicines and medical equipment separate: Check out the TSA page for Travelers With Disabilities and Medical Conditions, which cover the rules for medical liquids. You should try to pack medical equipment and medicines apart from the rest of your belongings, even if this only means putting them in a separate pouch or compartment in your luggage. This makes them easy for the screener to find and inspect.

Time your move through security: Every airport has a traffic pattern that changes throughout the day based on flight schedules. Security screening areas may be packed with people one moment and virtually empty half an hour later. Luckily, many airports offer dining close to security screening or the corridors that lead to them. If the screening area looks too crowded, give it fifteen minutes to see if things improve. It may seem counterintuitive, but when there are fewer people, screenings are likely to be faster and less stressful.

Be extra careful of metals: If you set off the metal detector, you’ll probably have to undergo a pat down. Many times, people accidentally cause themselves hassle by forgetting everyday items like keys and change, especially if they happen to be in a wallet. Wristwatches and eyeglasses can set off detectors, too. Remember that you don’t have to put your wallet into a separate tray for the x-ray – you can slip it into your bags before entering the security area to prevent theft. But you do have to have all metals ready to be x-rayed.

Airport security is a little tougher than usual, but it doesn’t have to be a problem for well-prepared disabled travelers. As with any trip, leave a margin for error in your schedule and be prepared to go with the flow. You’ll be on your flight before you know it! And we’ll be back before you know it, with more tips to help you and your travel companions enjoy your adventures around the world. Happy holidays!


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Comment by Laura Laughlin

Posted on June 26th, 2011

I am a disabled person beginning to plan out my first domestic airplane trip and was thrilled to find this website. Since I became handicapped 5 years ago, I have often felt frustrations at accessible facilities. Check out a post in my fledgling blog. Trying to travel via air frankly terrifies me. I use a walker but may need a wheelchair in the airport. Our local airport has stairs to get up to the plane. Visiting the airline’s website is not too illuminating. Should I begin with a phone call to the airline? Any other suggestions?

Comment by Si

Posted on June 30th, 2011

Hi, Laura,

Many airports make wheelchairs available in their terminals and can have someone meet you upon your arrival at the airport to assist you in getting to your flight. This is usually handled by the individual airlines, but it can also be a service of the airport; check their website and see if there’s a section for “Special Needs” passengers (you can often find it by using the website’s search function and typing in wheelchair. )

For getting through the airport itself, trying calling the airport information kiosk or customer service desk first. For getting onto and off of your flight, call the individual airline and discuss your needs at least 7 days in advance of your departure. When airline reps are made aware this early, they can arrange to pre-board you long before other passengers and give you any assistance you need both before and after your flight. Also remember to do this in reverse, that is, touch base with the airport about getting to your flight home.

Hope this helps!