Heading to the airport?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has special rules and recommendations that apply to travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions.
Although all travelers must undergo TSA screening at airport security checkpoints, travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions – and their traveling companions – are encouraged to notify the TSA officer of any special assistance that may be required as soon as they arrive at a security checkpoint.
The TSA recommends that travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions print out and fill in – or create a document similar to – the TSA Notification Card and bring it to the airport. The TSA Notification Card is available at the following link: https://www.tsa.gov/sites/default/files/disability_notification_card_508.pdf.
When travelers arrive at a security checkpoint holding written descriptions of their disabilities and/or medical conditions, the likelihood of miscommunication and misunderstanding is greatly reduced. This is why the most important thing that travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions can do to make the security screening process as stress-free as possible is to notify the TSA officer at the first opportunity.
Specific situations are covered by the following rules:
Travelers with medications – including medically necessary liquids (which are exempt from the general 3-1-1 liquids rule) and related accessories (such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps, and syringes) – should:
1. ensure that their medications are labeled correctly before they head to the airport; and
2. separate their medications from their other belongings and describe them to the TSA officer before the screening process begins.
Medications may undergo a visual or X-ray screening and also may be tested for traces of explosives.
If the TSA officer is unable to clear a liquid medication by the usual methods, then the officer may ask to open a container and/or dispose of a small quantity of the liquid (if feasible). Travelers have the option of denying this request, in which case additional steps will be taken to clear the liquid and the traveler’s other belongings may face additional screening.
External Medical Devices
Travelers with external medical devices – including bone growth stimulators, spinal stimulators, neurostimulators, ports, feeding tubes, insulin pumps, ostomy bags, and other medical devices attached to the body – should describe their nature and location to the TSA officer before the screening process begins.
Travelers with ostomy bags will not be required to disconnect or empty or expose them.
Implants and Internal Medical Devices
Travelers with artificial joints (including hips and knees), other metal implants, pacemakers, defibrillators, and other internal medical devices should describe their nature and location to the TSA officer before the screening process begins.
Travelers with internal medical devices such as pacemakers will not be screened through the walk-through metal detector.
Mobility Issues and Mobility Aids and Devices
Travelers with mobility issues – and/or mobility aids or devices – should describe them to the TSA officer before the screening process begins. Travelers who are able to walk without support and to stand with their arms raised above their heads without support for 5 to 7 seconds may be asked to undergo screening through advanced imaging technology or the walk-through metal detector.
Walkers, crutches, canes, and other mobility aids and devices must undergo X-ray screening. A TSA officer will inspect these items if they are too big to fit through the X-ray machine.
Wheelchairs and scooters – as well as seat cushions and any non-removable pouches or fanny packs – will be screened by a TSA officer. These items will be tested for traces of explosives, and removable items will undergo X-ray screening.
Travelers who cannot stand or walk will undergo a pat-down screening while seated.
Travelers who can stand but cannot walk may stand near their wheelchair or scooter and undergo a pat-down screening.
Travelers who set off the metal detector or advance imagining technology also will undergo a pat-down screening.
Prostheses, Casts, Braces, and Support Appliances
Travelers with prostheses, casts, braces, or support appliances should describe them to the TSA officer before the screening process begins.
Travelers with casts, braces, or support appliances may be required to remove them for X-ray screening.
Travelers with prostheses do not need to remove their prostheses (although travelers may remove them voluntarily). Travelers with prostheses may be required to lift, raise, or lower their clothing. If the screening will involve a sensitive area, a private screening will be provided and a disposable drape will be available upon request.
Travelers may request private screenings at any time.
Travelers with portable oxygen concentrators are advised to contact their airlines before they purchase tickets in order to confirm that the airline permits their use in flight. (Different airlines may have different policies.)
Travelers with portable oxygen concentrators should immediately notify the TSA officer whether or not they will be able to disconnect during the screening process. Travelers who are able to disconnect should submit their portable oxygen concentrators for X-ray screening.
Travelers with nebulizers, CPAPs, BiPAPs, or APAPs should remove them from their carrying cases and submit them for X-ray screening. Facemasks and tubing may remain in their cases.
Service Dogs and Other Animals
Travelers with service dogs or other animals should notify a TSA agent as soon as they arrive at a security checkpoint. Both the traveler and the service animal will be screened through the walk-through metal detector. The traveler and the service animal may walk through together or the traveler may lead the animal through separately on a leash.
If the service animal sets off the metal detector, the traveler should continue to hold the leash but otherwise make no contact with the animal until the animal has been inspected by a TSA officer. The TSA will not separate the service animal from the traveler.
TSA Cares Helpline
Travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions (or their travel companions or advocates) who have questions about TSA screening policies or procedures are encouraged to contact the TSA Cares helpline 72 hours before they travel. The telephone number is: (855) 787-2227.
All information presented above is from the TSA Special Procedures: Disabilities and Medical Conditions webpage, which may be accessed here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures.