Holiday air travel is always a hassle, and this year’s new screening procedures have added additional concerns for many, especially those with medical conditions or disabilities. Now, just in time for the holiday travel period, a medical notification card can be used to discreetly alert airport screeners.
Last month bladder cancer survivor Thomas Sawyer was left covered in urine following an aggressive airport security pat-down. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners refused to let him explain his medical condition or explain that he wears an ostomy pouch to collect his urine. The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network and other organizations asked the TSA to take many steps, including improving their training procedures so people with medical issues can feel more comfortable going through security.
In response, the TSA has now agreed to embrace the use of new medical notification cards, which enable those with medical concerns to discreetly make screeners aware of their situation. A spokesperson said TSA worked with a coalition of about 70 representatives from disability and health organizations to develop the cards.
The front of the new TSA notification card states: “I have the following health condition, disability or medical device that may affect my screening” with a box marked “optional” for travelers to write in. Below that, the card reads, “I understand that presenting this card does not exempt me from screening.”
The reverse side of the card reiterates screening may still be necessary and says the “TSA respects the privacy concerns of all members of the traveling public” and that “alternate procedures which provide an equivalent level of security screening are available and can be done in private.”
Some doctors, patient advocacy groups and medical-equipment suppliers created their own notification cards and letters long before the TSA's new stricter security screening rules and enhanced pat-downs went into effect. Advocates say TSA screeners in the past would ignore the cards, and the agency’s adoption of an official card is a key step forward.