Airport security screenings can be difficult and time-consuming for travelers with physical disabilities. To make things easier, travelers can enroll in the TSA PreCheck trusted traveler program to receive expedited screening. For wheelchair users, this means skipping the invasive pat down in most cases.
But many readers have written to tell me that not every PreCheck lane is wheelchair accessible. That’s true—In a number of airports around the country, physical barriers prevent wheelchair users from accessing the PreCheck lane. In these cases, passengers have been directed to a standard lane, where their expedited screening benefits have been denied.
This practice is discriminatory and unacceptable. Earlier this year, I shared that message with TSA Leadership at the 2018 TSA Disability Coalition conference. They recognized the problem and assured me of their commitment to improve accessibility for wheelchair users.
That is why I am excited to share the following announcement from TSA regarding a new policy for how PreCheck-eligible passengers will be screened in standard lanes:
TSA is pleased to announce updated procedures for screening of TSA Pre✓® passengers on standard lanes. Effective November 13, 2018, the procedures for on-person screening of passengers with TSA Pre✓® on their boarding passes are the same in TSA Pre✓® lanes and standard lanes. This change provides greater consistency for our TSA Pre✓® passengers when they are screened on a standard lane for any reason, for example, when the TSA Pre✓® lane is closed. Accessible property on standard lanes will continue to undergo standard screening (including removal of laptops, 3-1-1- liquids, and CPAP/BPAP equipment). Keep in mind that airports will utilize unpredictable screening procedures in order to ensure security effectiveness against evolving threats to our aviation transportation systems.
This means that wheelchair users who are directed to standard lanes when PreCheck is not accessible will no longer be forced to undergo a full-body patdown. The current PreCheck standard of an explosives test/hand swab and inspection of the wheelchair will apply, even in a standard lane. When in a standard lane, passengers should be prepared to remind the transportation security officer that they are PreCheck eligible.
Unfortunately, carry-on bags will be checked according to the procedures that apply to the lane in which they are screened. In a standard lane, laptops and liquids must be removed from the bag. In this sense, PreCheck benefits may still be denied to travelers with disabilities.
This is a stop-gap measure. It is not enough, but it is a positive step forward.
The TSA and airports must work together to ensure that all PreCheck lanes are universally accessible, both to able-bodied passengers and those with disabilities.
Have you enrolled in TSA PreCheck?
What have your airport security experiences been like?
Let me know in the comments below!