Knoxville-based amputee group questions TSA

Knoxville-based amputee group questions TSA

Peggy Chenoweth Peggy Chenoweth

6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Knoxville-based Amputee Coalition of America says amputees are being mistreated at airport security checkpoints across the nation.

One example, they say, is Peggy Chenoweth, of Gainesville, Virginia, who lost her left leg below the knee in 2003 after an accident.

A few weeks ago, she and her four-year-old son were flying home from a conference when her prosthetic set off the metal detector. 

"I always make sure that I wear shorts so then it's visible. They took me to the little Plexiglas waiting area which I'm very accustomed to. My son came through security, came over and sat right next to me and took my hand. He was immediately yelled at," Chenoweth said. "He started to cry. I wasn't allowed to comfort him. I wasn't allowed to give him a hug because I hadn't been cleared."

Then Chenoweth says she was forced to remove her leg and the liner that holds it in place.

"So I was stuck sitting in the Plexiglas room in front of everybody with my limb exposed. I think unless you're an amputee, you don't realize how very personal the residual limb is to the amputee. It's akin to showing your genitals or going bare-breasted. It's just something you don't feel comfortable showing in public," Chenoweth said. 

Now she says she's nervous to fly again, and she's not alone.

The Amputee Coalition of America just released a survey of 7,300 amputees that found 75 percent were unsatisfied with their most recent TSA experience.

"This isn't about me. This isn't about what happened to me. This is about what happens to amputees every time that they fly. We never know what to expect when we go through those security gates," Chenoweth said. "They definitely need standardized training. They need more information."

TSA gave 6 News this response to the survey:

"While TSA's number one priority is security, we also strive to treat all passengers with dignity and respect. TSA officers receive extensive training on how to respectfully screen all passengers including persons with disabilities. Every officer receives initial training on screening persons with disabilities as well as recurrent training.  

TSA developed specific guidance and procedures for the screening of persons with disabilities and investigates every claim that an officer did not follow the proper procedures, taking appropriate action when necessary. 

We work extensively with many disability groups as part of the TSA Disability Coalition, of which the Amputee Coalition of America is a member. This partnership is used as a forum to provide education on TSA screening procedures as well as solicit feedback used when developing and implementing security procedures. 

TSA is currently working with Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other similar organizations to further our understanding of prosthetics in the context of advanced imaging technology. 

TSA officers offer a private area to passengers who require additional screening. Officers are trained to thoroughly explain the procedure before it is performed, including where they will touch and how. Passengers can always request a private screening at any time. Pat downs are performed by security officers who are the same gender as the passenger."

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