Planning a trip can be an exciting process as you eagerly await the opportunity to have some much-needed rest and relaxation. It may also be necessary for you to travel to visit with your friends and loved ones. One of the obstacles before getting to your destination is navigating airport security. It is best to be informed before you travel. Reviewing information in advance can help you avoid extensive wait times and unnecessary complications.
This fact sheet will provide you with information on what you need to know, as an individual with limb loss or limb difference, before stepping through the security checkpoint.
Getting Information Before You Get To The Airport
The Transportation Security Administration has a help line, TSA Cares, to assist travelers with medical conditions in providing guidance about what to expect when traveling with a disability. If you are preparing to travel, you will need to call at least 72 hours in advance. You will have the opportunity to speak with a representative about your questions or concerns.
If necessary, the representative will refer you to a passenger support specialist. The passenger support specialist has specific training in helping individuals with special needs. They have the ability to assist you throughout the safety screening process to ensure your needs are met.
You have the ability to request a passenger support specialist in advance. You can reach the TSA Cares line at 855/787-2227 Monday through Friday from 8am-11pm Eastern Standard Time, and on weekends and holidays from 9am-8pm Eastern Standard Time.
TSA CARES HOTLINE
Monday through Friday: 8am-11pm (EST)
Weekends and Holidays: 9am-8pm (EST)
Download and complete a Notification Card to be provided to the TSA officer who will be conducting your screening. The Notification Card is intended to describe your health condition, disability or medical device to the TSA officer in a discreet manner, helping to ensure your privacy. You also have the option of having your security screening done in private.
Traveling with a Prosthesis
You can be screened without removing your prosthesis. Before the screening process begins, you should inform the TSA agent of your prosthesis and your ability level as well as any assistance you might need, such as a chair or private screening. You can use the Notification Card to communicate discreetly with the agent. Having the card completed and readily available does not exempt you from the screening. You can be screened with imaging technology, metal detector or thorough pat-down.
Regardless of the method in which your screening takes place, your prosthesis will need to have additional screening. The TSA agent will need to see and touch your prosthesis but will not ask nor require you to remove it. This may require you to lift part of your clothing, without exposing sensitive areas. Sampling areas can be accessed by lifting your pant leg or shirtsleeve or by raising your skirt to knee-level. The TSA officer will explain the explosive trace sampling procedure so that you are aware of the process. At any time during the security screening, you have the option of requesting a disposable paper drape for privacy.
A TSA officer should offer you a private screening if your 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 prosthesis to your body. The agent will test the prosthesis for traces of explosive material. If explosive material is detected, you will need to complete additional screenings. If you voluntarily remove your prosthesis, it will be screened by X-ray.
If you opt for a private screening, you may have a companion, assistant or family member accompany and assist you in the private screening area once they have been screened themselves. You have the right to refuse a private screening if it is offered to you; however, regardless of in private or public, you will need to complete a security screening in order to proceed beyond the security checkpoint.
Using A Wheelchair or Scooter
If you feel you need to travel with a wheelchair or scooter, there are several things that are important to know in advance. If you need a wheelchair once you reach the airport, your airline should provide accommodations to ensure your ability to navigate the airport. The airline may provide you with a wheelchair and a wheelchair attendant while you are in the airport. This is not a service that is provided through TSA, so you will need to communicate your needs with your airline before traveling.
If you are traveling in a wheelchair, the process for safety screening is determined by your ability to stand and walk. It is possible to complete the security screening without standing up or walking but it is important that you communicate your abilities to your TSA agent before the screening process begins. Typically, you can expect the following:
|Your Ability Level||Screening Method|
|You cannot stand nor walk||A thorough pat-down, by a TSA officer of the same gender, while seated|
|You can stand but cannot walk||You may be asked to stand near your wheelchair or scooter to be screened with a thorough pat-down|
|You can walk||You may be able to be screened using a metal detector or imaging technology. A pat-down will be used to resolve any alarms of the metal detector or something in question from the imaging technology.|
Your wheelchair or scooter will be thoroughly inspected, including your seat cushions and pouches. The TSA agent will also test for traces of explosives. If a pouch is able to be removed, it will need to undergo X-ray screening. At any time during the screening, you may request a chair if you need to sit.
The Transportation Security Administration has started a program called TSA Pre✓®. This program is an intelligence-driven and risk-based initiative that allows TSA to improve the experience of the passenger by reducing wait times in the screening process. Travelers who are registered with the program and identified as being low-risk by TSA can take advantage of shorter wait times and special screening lanes. The approved traveler may also benefit from not having to remove shoes, belts, light jackets or 3-1-1 compliant bags.
The traveler must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident and cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. There is an $85 charge for a five-year membership, which covers the cost of the background check required by the program.
To complete your application, you must visit an application center in order to provide biographic information and identification documents and fingerprints. Once you have completed the enrollment process and your application is approved, you will receive a Known Traveler Number in the mail about two to three weeks after completing the application center visit. Once you receive your Known Traveler Number, you will enter that number each time you make a flight reservation on any of the more than 200 airports and 67 airlines. For more information, visit the TSA Pre✓® Web page.
Basic Rules for TSA
3-1-1 Liquids rule: You are allowed to bring one small, quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. The items must be limited to 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less per container. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process
Be sure to declare larger liquids: Medications, baby formula/food and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities over three ounces. You need to declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. The TSA agent may need to open the container for additional screening. If you are ever in doubt about what you can and cannot take with you through the security checkpoint, you always have the option to put your liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and paste in your checked luggage.
Medically Necessary Liquids: You must inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening if you are carrying medically necessary liquids or other medical accessories, such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps and syringes. They may be subject to additional screening. You are allowed to bring medication in pill or solid form through the security checkpoint in unlimited amounts as long as they are screened. TSA does not have specific requirements for the labeling of medication bottles but individual states may require that the medicine be labeled. If you have a question, contact the TSA Cares hotline at 855/787-2227 before your trip.
Children With Medical Needs
You will need to inform the TSA officer if your child has a disability. This will be especially important if your child might be upset by the screening. You should tell the TSA officer what your child’s abilities are, such as if they are able to walk through the metal detector or if you would prefer to carry them through.
Your child should not be removed from a wheelchair or a scooter by the TSA officer. A pat-down search can be completed if your child is unable to walk or stand or if you are unable to carry them through the metal detector. The TSA officer will work with parents to resolve any alarms at the checkpoint. TSA has modified screening procedures for children under 12 to reduce the likelihood of a pat-down. You will need to be with your child at all times and you always have the right to ask for a screening to be done in private.
If you feel that you have been treated inappropriately, or are not being treated in accordance with TSA guidelines and regulations, you have the right to request a supervisor at the time of your screening. 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 procedures or fair and respectful treatment. They will ensure any TSA officers not complying with TSA rules and regulations or not treating passengers with respect will receive additional training in the future.
If you are unsatisfied, have questions or experience disrespect or incorrect screening, you can file a claim and share your story with the TSA by contacting their Claims Management Branch at 866/289-9673. The TSA and Amputee Coalition also encourage you to share any positive experiences you might have while going through security as well.
The information for this fact sheet was taken directly from the Transportation Security Administration’s Web site; we encourage you to use the TSA as a resource before, during and after your flight.
This fact sheet provides general travel information and advice for amputees and other travelers with disabilities. However, since airport guidelines and carry-on restrictions are continually updated and/or amended, we strongly suggest you contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for specific current guidelines if you plan to travel. For questions about traveling for people with disabilities, what items are permitted and what items are prohibited, and for other general questions or concerns, please contact the TSA Contact Center in one of the following ways:
Phone: 866/289-9673 (toll-free)
TSA Web site: tsa.gov
Web Addresses For Linked Materials
- TSA Notification Card
- TSA Pre✓®
- Transportation Security Administration
- TSA Pre✓® Application Program
- TSA Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions
It is not the intention of the Amputee Coalition to provide specific medical or legal advice but rather to provide consumers with information to better understand their health and healthcare issues. The Amputee Coalition does not endorse any specific treatment, technology, company, service or device. Consumers are urged to consult with their healthcare providers for specific medical advice or before making any purchasing decisions involving their care.
National Limb Loss Resource Center, a program of the Amputee Coalition, located at 900 East Hill Ave., Suite 390, Knoxville, TN 37915 | 888/267-5669
© Amputee Coalition. Local reproduction for use by Amputee Coalition constituents is permitted as long as this copyright information is included. Organizations or individuals wishing to reprint this article in other publications, including other World Wide Web sites must contact the Amputee Coalition for permission to do so.