Fallout continues following the attacks in Belgium last month. Jacqueline Galant, Belgium’s Transportation Minister, resigned April 15 after a scathing report from European Union officials regarding Belgian airport security was made public.
Thirty-one lives were extinguished prematurely as a result of this fleeting victory for hate and intolerance. It’s clear we’re in the fight of our lives, but we’ll win. We’ll win because we have a couple of aces up our sleeve.
As the CEO and co-founder of brettapproved.com, Inc., a travel and entertainment website dedicated to helping anyone with a physical disability or mobility challenge travel confidently, I think of things like airport security, and security in general, a lot.
Life is defined by experiences, so I want everyone to have the freedom to travel as much as possible, regardless of their ability level.
For me, the most challenging aspect of traveling with my manual chair can often be negotiating airport security. I suspect many of the 118.7 million people who caught flights to and from Newark, LaGuardia and JFK in 2014, according to Airports Council International statistics, agree.
Regardless of one’s ability level, airports are stressful, in large measure due to security regulations and methods.
With this in mind, I’d like to offer some tips to the TSA professionals who help keep us safe that, if practiced, might help reduce their stress levels and the stress levels of the traveling public who use chairs.
– Ask passengers in chairs to follow you to the screening area. If we need help we’ll let you know.
– Try not to act so surprised if a passenger in a chair explains that he or she is traveling alone on business.
– Understand that we know the pat-down process is just as uncomfortable for you as it is for us. Be thorough but efficient.
– Assign dedicated agents during every shift whose entire responsibility is assisting passengers in chairs with the physical pat-down process.
Sidebar: While the above bullet is highly unlikely to be implemented due to staffing and budget constraints, this would eliminate a scenario that happened to me earlier this month when I was catching a flight from Phoenix to Miami: Two TSA agents argued over who was going to pat me down.
You see, neither of them wanted to do it. I’m a handsome, well-groomed professional but I don’t blame them. I can definitely think of better ways to spend 15 to 20 minutes. Their banter added time to the process and made me feel uncomfortable. There must be a better way.
– If a passenger tells you he or she has sensitive areas on their body, remember it and be gentle.
– Consider using some type of technology-focused alternative to the physical pat down. Again, this is a budget issue to be sure but you can’t put a price on safety or human dignity.
– Know that a passenger’s wheelchair is more vital to them than your car is to you, so treat chairs with respect.
– Above all, remember that we’re people just like you, so treat us the way you’d like to be treated if you were in our situation, with respect.
Notice a similarity with the last two bullets? I’ll give you a hint … the word “respect” is mentioned twice. Coincidence? I think not.
Let me be clear: this article isn’t designed to take shots at the TSA. My goal is to spark discussion about how the process can be improved.
The overwhelming majority of TSA agents I have encountered do a good job, but everyone — regardless of our occupation — should strive for excellence. If we don’t we’ll never achieve it.
Remember when terrorism was an abstract concept? Sept. 10, 2001, was the last ordinary day many of us will ever experience. Twenty-four hours later, everything changed. We changed.
In the days and months that followed, our neighbor’s burdens became our own and for a time, albeit much too short, each of us became our brother’s keeper. Our true character was on display. The words “I” and “me” were replaced by “we” and “our.”
I’d like to think there won’t be more innocent lives lost in the name of one cause or another but of course, this is naïve. Socioeconomic chasms, the lack of opportunity and a belief by some that the promises of tomorrow must be better than the reality of today, mean these attacks will continue.
Fortunately, love and tolerance, the aces up our sleeve I mentioned earlier, will always defeat the cowardice of ideologues who insist on propelling fear and hate forward. I know this because I believe with all my heart that the best revenge is living well.
Source: Daily News