TSA Modifies Opt-Out Policy

Ever since the Advance Imaging Technologies (AIT) full body scanners were introduced at Airports across America, travelers have had the opportunity to “opt-out” of what some considered an invasion of their privacy, and instead have a manual pat down. That regulation was recently modified by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in a Privacy Impact Assessment Update released on December 18, 2015.

Now, travelers can still request to opt-out, but TSA agents have the authority to require an AIT scan if they perceive the traveler to be a security threat. The reasons given for this policy change are that AIT screening is the most effective way to screen passengers, and that the privacy issues have been addressed in the newer AIT machines. These new machines no longer display what many consider revealing body images, but instead now just show a generic body outline. Additionally, the TSA does not save or store these images.

So what’s that mean for wheelchair-users and slow walkers? Relatively nothing. The reason is that you have to be able to stand, walk into the AIT scanner without any mobility aids, and then hold your arms over your head for 5-7 seconds. Wheelchair-users are routinely given pat downs, as are people who walk with canes, crutches and walkers.

That said, if a TSA agent asks you to do something that you are physically unable to do, make sure and tell them you can’t do it. That no only includes anything that you can’t do, but also anything that might be difficult or painful for you to do.

So for now, it’s business as usual for wheelchair-users and slow walkers as far as TSA screenings are concerned. And that for once, is good news.