I'll be flying myself soon for the first time since TSA introduced its new, more invasive screening procedures. And frankly, I'm really getting a bit nervous now — especially in light of the disastrously insensitive approach some TSA agents seem to take to administering pat-downs to people wearing medical devices. (Who read about the bladder cancer survivor whose urostomy bag they broke?!)
This seemed like a good moment to check in with the American Diabetes Association to find out what their lobbying efforts had yielded for those of us who wear insulin pumps and CGM devices: is there any assurance at all of avoiding aggravating delays, let alone potential humiliation?
Katharine Gordon, the ADA Legal Advocacy Fellow who informed my original report on this topic, says that by banding together with nearly 20 other patient advocacy groups around the country — with the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network leading the charge — they've been able to make some significant progress. Representatives from these organizations, including celiac and gastrointestinal disorder groups, submitted a Here's-What's-Up letter to TSA on Dec. 7. You can read the letter in PDF here.
What followed was a Jan. 25 live meeting between representatives of these patient groups and TSA decision-makers, with the goal of "helping to refine screening procedures and share feedback from persons with disabilities and medical conditions."
So what's changed for people with diabetes?
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Katharine says to expect an article on TSA and diabetes in the next issue of Diabetes Forecast magazine. But she was kind enough to give us the scoop here at the 'Mine:
"We, the American Diabetes Association, were told by TSA that changes had been made in response to the concerns we had raised:
- No more excessive screening of all carry-on baggage because you use an insulin pump.
- No more double screening if you go through the full-body scan and it picks up your pump/CGM. Before, you had to go through the entire intrusive pat-down if something was picked up. Now it should only be localized to the particular area, e.g., if you have a device on your right arm, only your right arm needs to be checked.
HOWEVER, if you choose to opt out of either the full body scan or the conventional metal detector, you will still be subject to the full intrusive pat-down.
An emphasis of the meeting, which all the disease groups agreed with, was that Transportation Security Officers need constant training, both in knowledge of medical conditions and devices, and in communication skills.
TSA has also rolled out a pilot program which will improve the privacy of the full body screening. Essentially, when you go through the screener, the image that is created won't be of your likeness, but a generic, genderless outline of a person on which irregularities will appear. While not related to diabetes in particular, it may make people with privacy and modesty concerns more comfortable."
I'm glad for that. And I'm glad for the work of ADA here, towards diminishing the pain/ hassle / discomfort we'll have to endure at airports as people whose lives depend on medical devices. I'm just still wondering: how long do you think until these new directives "trickle down" to Joe Security Agent working at local airports around the country? From what I'm hearing and reading, a lot of these screeners are, well, just amazingly insensitive... ugh.