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Navigate the TSA Checkpoint with MS

June 22, 2017

The Transportation Security Administration is responsible for security screenings in most U.S. airports, as well as setting the standards for private firms that carry out screenings for all other flights. However, controversies have been floating around this agency, especially regarding those with medical conditions and disabilities. Moreover, several highly-publicized incidents between TSA and travelers with disabilities, particularly since the introduction of enhanced screening procedures in 2010 involving full-body scans or pat-downs, have made some people with medical conditions hesitant about managing the security screening necessary for air travel. If this is the case for you, check out these tips for knowing how to prepare, what to expect, and what rights you can assert that can help you to navigate the screening process successfully.

Communicating Your Needs

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients need to communicate with an officer when passing through the TSA checkpoint. TSA provides a printable disability notification card on their website, which would allow you to discreetly inform a screener of your condition. Any medical documentation of your condition is acceptable for this purpose, or you can choose to discuss it openly.

Traveling with MS Medications

You should keep your medications with you in a carry-on bag when flying, in case you need those medications in-flight or in the unfortunate event that your checked baggage is lost or misdirected. All medications in solid form, like pills, need no special procedures. If your medication is liquid, the TSA requires that you notify an agent in the screening area prior to beginning your screening. You would be asked to remove these items from your bag for a separate screening. Generally, your medication and accompanying items would be X-rayed separately from your other belongings and returned to you to be repacked. In rare circumstances, TSA may opt to test some of the medication for explosives.

Screening with Mobility Issues

All travelers are required to have their person screened for concealed items, either by walking through a metal detector / standing in an imaging device (depending on the technology in place at the airport), or by undergoing a pat-down by a TSA officer of the same gender. This creates challenges for those with limited mobility. If you are able to walk and stand without support for 5-7 seconds with your arms above your head, you are eligible to use the imaging technology. If you can’t meet these requirements, you would undergo a pat-down.

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