WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) hosted nearly 40 disability and multicultural organizations at the 11th Annual TSA Coalition Conference held at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Sept. 19, 2013. The TSA Disability and Multicultural Coalition include leaders from organizations representing various disabilities, cultural and religious communities.
The annual conference brings together coalition members and TSA senior leaders to discuss advances in transportation security screening and achievable best practices to improve the screening experience for coalition members and their constituencies.
“TSA commends the coalition for its devoted advocacy work on behalf of so many travelers,” said TSA Deputy Administrator John W. Halinski, who spoke at the conference to discuss TSA’s risk-based, intelligence-driven approach to transportation security. “The conference reinforces TSA’s ongoing commitment to the best and most efficient transportation security for all travelers, including the multicultural community and those with disabilities.”
“As TSA continues to evolve, we have significantly expanded our unique Passenger Support Specialists program,” said Kimberly Walton, TSA assistant administrator, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement. “More than 3,000 specially trained TSA employees are voluntarily committed to assisting passengers who require additional assistance during security checkpoint screening. Improving the quality of our training remains a top priority. We are committed to the ongoing education of our workforce to accommodate the needs of travelers from the various disability and multicultural groups.”
This year’s conference focused on improving the security screening experience for travelers with disabilities and individuals from religious and cultural groups. Speakers from TSA shared the latest information regarding new TSA screening initiatives, including enhanced employee training and the continued progress of risk-based security initiatives. Additionally, the conference included an overview of TSA Pre✓™ and an opportunity to engage in an optional TSA Pre✓™ demonstration.
Coalition members and event attendees provided feedback and ideas from their respective communities in order to engage in a dialogue about the security screening process.
More than 40 disability groups, multicultural groups and federal agencies attended the conference. The groups represented included: American Diabetes Association, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Association of the Deaf, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Council on Disability, National Council on Independent Living and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
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TSA Cares is a help line to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. TSA recommends that passengers call 72 hours ahead of travel to for information about what to expect during screening. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource specifically for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying. Since its launch in December 2011, more than 27,000 passengers with disabilities and their families have called TSA Cares seeking information. Many passengers were referred to TSA’s Disability Branch in Washington for additional support for their upcoming travel.
Passenger Support Specialists:
The Passenger Support Specialist (PSS) program is comprised of Transportation Security Officers and Supervisors who have received special training to provide assistance and resolve traveler-related screening concerns. Training for Passenger Support Specialists includes enhanced training from TSA and the disability and multicultural community on assisting individuals with special needs, communicating with passengers by listening and explaining, and disability etiquette and disability civil rights. Travelers requiring special accommodations or concerned about checkpoint screening may ask a checkpoint officer or supervisor for a Passenger Support Specialist who will provide on-the-spot assistance.