Dear Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation:
On Sunday, December 2, 2012, I went through the security checkpoint at the airport in Richmond, Virginia. I am a handicapped 63-year-old woman professional writer and English professor with no criminal history. After I passed through the scanning chamber, I was suddenly stopped by a TSA woman who said that she needed to check my hair and my left thigh. I was wearing a tiny barrette to hold up a coil of my long hair. The barrette has a bit of metal in it. However, I cannot imagine why anyone needed to feel up and down my thigh in public. I have severe arthritis in my joints, and I often suffer from bursitis in my left thigh. Because of my frequent pain in this area, I was terrified when the security staff squeezed my thigh because I was worried about further injuring this leg. Of course, the guard found nothing suspicious, so I was allowed to proceed to my gate to catch my plane for Detroit.
Recently, the Transportation Department has eased inspection of children, allowing them to keep their shoes on. I recommend that you also consider easing inspection of senior citizens. Here are some suggestions that I think would make it easier for Americans over the age of 60 to travel. Many senior citizens suffer from severe arthritis, have back problems, and have trouble walking without shoes.
1) Provide chairs next to the security area so that seniors can sit down to remove their shoes. Because I have stenosis and cracked disks in my back, I am not supposed to bend down. A chair would enable me and other individuals to untie our shoes without injuring our spines.
2) Some of the TSA personnel try to rush people going through security. Please train TSA staff members to have patience. It is difficult for senior citizens and other individuals with injuries or chronic conditions to move rapidly.
3) Is it absolutely necessary for senior citizens to remove their shoes? How many planes have been hijacked by people over the age of 60? Like many seniors, I have flat feet, bunions, and other foot deformities. It is very hard for me to walk without the orthotics in my shoes, which compensate for my deficiencies.
I hope that you will consider implementing my ideas for airport security screening. Thank you for your attention.
Janet Ruth Heller, Ph.D.
Causes Janet Heller Supports
National Trust for Historic Preservation, Nature Conservancy, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Autism Speaks,