The Mighty Logo

When I Was Treated Like a Criminal At the Airport Because of My Disability

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I want to start by acknowledging that others have gone through worse scenarios with airport security. I understand that security screeners need to be diligent. However…

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

A few weeks ago I was heading down to visit family, primarily my new granddaughter. I was super excited about seeing her. When I booked my flight I did state that I needed some assistance. There was a very nice young lady who retrieved a wheelchair for me and got me up to the front of the line to check my bags and my boarding pass. That was where the niceness ended.

My boarding pass showed that I was pre-screened and at security I was told I would not have to take off my shoes. I got to the actual screening site and was told I needed to remove shoes before going into the scanner. I showed that I was pre-screened, but that did not matter. So, off came the shoes along with my AFO brace. They asked me about any metal and I told them both knees and left hip were replaced. Into the scanner I went, and of course it alarmed.

I was then treated like a common criminal. The agent made me take off all my braces. I asked her if I could please leave on my knee brace as it is difficult to get on and off. She denied my request. I removed my hand braces, knee brace and she took everything (including my AFO and shoes) to another scanner, out of my sight. When all that cleared she came back and did a very thorough pat down, up and down my legs. I was wearing leggings, so no hiding anything under them, but she patted me down with excessive exuberance!

As I sat there in a chair, watching many people come through the scanner and get at mosr an additional wave scanner run over them, I felt so exposed. People were watching me take off and put back on my braces, shoes etc. The agent never even cracked a smile — she was just plain rude. I have written to the TSA and it was forwarded to the airport. I received an email from the head of security apologizing and asking me for more info.

We as disabled persons need to be treated with respect at the airport, not singled out because we are in a wheelchair, wear braces or use a walking aid of some sort. Thankfully on the way home I was treated so kindly. That airport allowed me to keep my braces on and they just swiped them down with pads to check for explosives. They treated me with kindness, dignity and respect. That’s how it should always be.

Getty image by Terasov VL.

Originally published: April 24, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home