TSA’s 17th Annual Disability and Multicultural Coalition Conference

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on December 12, 2019 # Travel

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reported screening 262 million people this summer, which was the busiest summer in TSA history. Air travel is expected to continue to expand. This highlights the need to further improve the screening process as more individuals are traveling. TSA operates at 440 airports and has 55,000 employees. Each has a responsibility for protecting passengers’ civil rights and civil liberties.

TSA screening practices, procedures, and policies must be in full compliance with all applicable civil rights laws, liberties, regulations, executive orders, and policies. TSA must not discriminate against travelers on the basis of national origin, race, color, age, religion, sex, genetic information, disability, sexual orientation, or parental status. The Disability and Multicultural Branches educate TSA personnel on civil rights and liberties responsibilities to the public, promote respect in policy and training creation and implementation, partner with organizations and advocacy groups through TSA’s Disability and Multicultural Coalition, and investigate and resolve civil discrimination complaints filed against TSA activities at federalized airports.

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation staff had the pleasure of attending TSA’s 17th Annual Disability and Multicultural Coalition Conference this fall. The Reeve Foundation is a consumer coalition member that provides feedback and highlights needs and successes of TSA’s policies. The Reeve Foundation works with the TSA Disability Coalition to aid in identifying promising practices and nondiscriminatory delivery of TSA screening procedures and policies. The coalition is comprised of 450 community-based and advocacy groups.

The conference aims to strengthen the relationship between community stakeholders and TSA. The collaboration helps to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of passengers while ensuring safe and secure air travel. For members of the disability community, this includes addressing issues such as traveling with medications, mobility devices, medical devices, etc. TSA has eight training programs specific to screening and accommodating individuals with disabilities.

Panels focused on people, processes, and technology. Panelists discussed the delicate balance of ensuring freedom and freedom of movement with protecting the safety of all traveling individuals. During the technology panel, the collaboration of industry partners and vendors were highlighted. Innovations such as testing systems to screen individuals in their wheelchairs, passive and non-invasive camera systems to screen more easily and increase space available for mobility, and unifying information online were discussed. A panel highlighting TSA processes illustrated policies and procedures that facilitate and govern the screening process.

Throughout the conference, TSA personnel reiterated that receiving feedback is important to achieving nondiscrimination and accessibility. Transportation security is a community approach, and thus should be informed by the community. Funding for these initiatives can be more easily obtained by using the data such feedback provides. Passengers are encouraged to share their input through the links listed below. TSA noted the importance of passengers giving as much detail and being as specific as possible in their feedback.

Tools for travel:
Before travel, individuals with disabilities can work with TSA Cares for screening assistance to best prepare. Travelers should call (855) 787-2227 72 hours prior to flying with questions about what to expect at the checkpoint and screening policies and procedures. Travelers with special accommodations or concerns may request a Passenger Support Specialist (PSS) who can provide on-the-spot assistance by asking a TSA officer or supervisor. It should be noted that PSS services are not available at all airports, and thus passengers are encouraged to inquire ahead of time. In addition, AskTSA is a social media service in which travelers can ask questions to TSA directly via Facebookor Twitter. Passengers can hope to receive a response within an hour. TSA Cares also provides videos on YouTubethat travelers with disabilities may find helpful. Additional information on air travel with disabilities and medical conditions can be found here.

Filing complaints:
Individuals with disabilities can file a Consumer Complaint with the Department of Transportation here. TSA complaints can be filed at https://www.tsa.gov/contact-center/form/complaints. More information about claims can be found here.

Traveling with a REAL ID:
As a reminder, October 1, 2020 will be the first effective date that adult passengers must travel with REAL ID-compliant identifications when flying. In preparation, air travelers should make sure they obtain a REAL ID ahead of time. REAL ID-compliant cards are generally marked in the upper half of an ID card. If you have questions about your form of identification, you should contact your state driver’s license agency. It should be noted that this does not apply to passengers traveling with tribal identifications.