The Autism Society Provides Resources for Seamless Travel
September 8, 2011
By Autism Society
Know Your Rights and Resources When Traveling by Air
The process of traveling by plane has changed dramatically during the last decade. In the spirit of improved air travel, we wanted to share a few things the Autism Society learned while attending the 9th Annual Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Coalition Conference on Sept. 7, 2011. We hope some of this information will help make air travel as comfortable as possible for individuals with autism.
Security measures in airports include both what we can see and things that are not seen. Security is intended to be multi-layered with screening that is random and unpredictable. One security technique involves behavior detection, in which officers watch the behaviors of people as they come through checkpoints. Clearly, the social characteristics of ASD make this a particular concern for our population. The Autism Society will continue to assist TSA to ensure behaviors of people with autism (lack of eye contact, etc.) are known to screeners. We found TSA employees at every level to be very concerned with protecting the privacy of travelers and treating every individual they encounter with dignity and respect while keeping safety a priority.
There are a few things travelers with ASD can do to prepare themselves and to better inform security officers and screeners for passing seamlessly through security procedures:
TSA is currently testing an expedited screening program that would help Transportation Security Officers focus resources on higher-risk passengers, while expediting the process for lower-risk passengers. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler Programs provide expedited travel for pre-approved, low-risk travelers through dedicated lanes and kiosks. The goal of this program, according to the TSA, is to be respectful, efficient and effective, and respond to the specific people coming through the lines. This would be a beneficial move from the one-size-fits-all construct put in place after September 11. Read more about the Trusted Traveler Programs…
This option would allow individuals known to TSA to bypass long, stressful lines. However, participants would have to share personal information with TSA beforehand.
How it works: If participating passengers are cleared through the pre-screening process, they may be directed to a designated lane at the airport after they present their ID and boarding pass to security officers at the checkpoint. The layout of the lanes may vary among pilot locations.
Eligible participants will receive information from their airlines and/or the CBP, as well as TSA, on steps to take at each location. (Read more… ) Remember : Expedited screening does not mean you are exempt from the screening process altogether!
TSA provides a “Blue Card” online, which you can access by clicking here, that states that the individual has a condition or device that may affect screening procedures. The Blue Card and copies of related medical documentation should be presented to screeners, so they can make accommodations for the individual. When reservations are made, you can always inform the agent that you are, or will be traveling with, an individual with a disability. Some may not want to share personal information and that is certainly their right, but TSA has put procedures in place to accommodate travelers with special needs.
Everyone is entitled to a private screening and permitted to have an escort with them for the screening.
If Problems Arise
TSA stressed the importance of reporting issues you encounter. That way they can work directly to address specific concerns and also track trends so they can address components of the screening process that pose problems for many travelers. To file a complaint, you can download a form to submit a complaint.
You can also ask to speak to a Customer Services Manager on duty. These individuals are there to ensure your experience is as positive as possible and that officers are following the proper procedures.
If you encounter difficulties or feel you have not been treated appropriately, you can contact the Office of Disability Policy and Outreach at TSA.ODPO@dhs.gov.
Prepare for Your Trip
TSA also provides a Contact Center that you can call or e-mail in advance to ask questions and get more detailed information prior to your trip. You can contact the center at 1-866-289-9673 or TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.
You can also view short videos that provide an overview of the screening process, which can help prepare an individual for what to expect. The Autism Society recommends practicing the steps associated with travel, such as taking laptops out of bags, storing liquids properly, taking shoes off, etc., to help provide context for people with ASD. The videos can be found here.
We wish you all happy, safe and seamless travels!
April 10, 2013
The Autism Society, the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots autism organization, has chosen Pittsburgh as the host city of its 44th annual conference on autism spectrum disorders.
April 5, 2013
Individuals with autism can attend the Autism Society National Conference and Exposition (in Pittsburgh) for FREE this year! Learn more: www.autism-society.org/conference.
April 3, 2013
Monarch Teaching Technologies, the makers of VizZle®, web-based educational software for visual learners with autism, will give one-year of free VizZle to every new (or renewing) Champion Member during April.
April 2, 2013
Read the Autism Society’s digital magazine about autism spectrum disorders!
April 2, 2013
Today, throughout the world, individuals will come together highlighting the needs and dreams of people living with autism.