TSA Amputee Guidelines
I have been asked a lot over the years about what to expect when traveling with a prosthesis. Having traveled quite a bit, both domestically and internationally, I have experienced a wide array of security protocols. I have gone through security check points all over Europe, the Middle East, Central America and at airports all over the United States, from small towns to large urban centers. Before traveling, it is always helpful to review the TSA’s amputee guidelines.
What I have found is that the security personnel are just as uncomfortable with the search as you.
Since a prosthesis is an unknown to many people, security personnel are cautious about hurting or making the traveler uncomfortable. For individuals wearing prosthetic devices, here are important things you need to know before going through security:
- Security Officers will need to see and touch your prosthetic device as part of the screening process (this does not apply to mastectomy prostheses).
- Security Officers will not ask nor require you to remove your prosthetic device, cast, or support brace. If they ever ask you to take it off, ask to speak to a supervisor as this is against TSA rules and regulations.
- During the screening process, please do not remove or offer to remove your prosthetic device. You have the option of requesting a private screening at any time during the screening of your prosthetic device, cast or support brace. In fact, I am often asked if I would like a private screening. It is entirely up to you.
- You have the right to refuse the offer of a private screening; however, you will need to allow the screening to be conducted publicly if you wish to proceed beyond the security checkpoint.
- You may have a companion, assistant, or family member accompany and assist you into the private screening area (once he or she has been screened) and remain throughout the screening process.
- TSA will make every effort to have two Security Officers of the same gender as the passenger being screened present during the private screening.
- If you are too weak or unstable on your feet to stand for a hand held metal inspection because of your prosthetic device, cast, or support brace, you may request to sit down after you have passed the walk through metal detector.
- Please notify Security Officers if you need assistance during the screening process such as a hand, arm, or shoulder to lean upon, or a chair in which to sit. At any time during the screening process you can request a disposable paper drape for privacy.
- The Security Officer will describe the explosive trace sampling procedure in advance to help you along with the process. The explosive trace sampling process may require you to lift or raise some of your clothing in order to obtain the explosive trace sample. (Sampling areas can be accessed by you lifting your pant leg or shirtsleeve or by raising your skirt to knee-level.). They typically just swap my prosthetic ankle or sometimes my prosthetic knee.
- If clothing will need to be lifted or raised in order to obtain the explosive trace sample. You will not be required to remove any clothing during the process or remove or display the belt that holds your prosthetic device to your body.
Your hands will also be swabbed. I flew out after working all day in the prosthetics lab and must have had traces of carbon and acetone on my hands because they had to perform the test multiple times. Not to mention, it required some explaining on my part. So, make sure you wash your hands before going through the security checkpoint.
- If the device alarms the explosive trace machine and the Security Officer cannot resolve the alarm, you will not be permitted through the security checkpoint. To be safe, make sure your prosthesis is free of an suspected explosive materials. If you work with chemicals vocationally please do your due diligence and research which chemicals the TSA tests and make sure your prosthesis and your body are free from those chemicals.
More information pertaining to the TSA amputee guidelines and screening of prosthetic devices, walkers, crutches, canes, augmentation devices, orthopedic shoes, support appliances, and other exterior medical devices, and dressings can be found on TSA’s website here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures
Finally, if you feel you are being treated inappropriately, not in accordance with TSA amputee guidelines and regulations, you have the right to request that a supervisor be present. If you are still unsatisfied with the supervisor, you also have the right to request a TSA Customer Service Manager (CSM). There is a CSM in every airport, and if requested, they will come to the screening area and answer any questions or concerns you may have, including questions about procedures or fair and respectful treatment. Any TSA Officers found not to be complying with TSA rules and regulations or not treating passengers with respect will receive additional training in the future.
To get updated information about the TSA’s procedures and the TSA amputee guidelines, you can visit their website here at http://www.tsa.gov. The above information is taken directly from the Transportation Security Administration’s website, and we encourage you to use the TSA as a resource before, during, and after you fly.
*information courtesy of the Amputee Coalition of America.