Disabled Mesa woman says TSA officer inappropriately touched her | 12news.com

2023-03-08 15:56:00 By : Mr. Franky Zhong

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PHOENIX — Gina Schuh loves to travel, but a recent encounter with TSA security has put a dent in her traveling joy.

“I felt violated, and it was unnecessary,” Schuh told 12News. “Honestly, I have never had a pat-down like this before.”

The encounter happened at Sky Harbor on Feb. 25. She was traveling to Iowa for business.

Schuh is quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair. Because she can’t walk through the metal detector herself, the TSA procedure is that she is screened by way of a pat-down by a woman.

But she said the process was different this time.

“I’ve had screening about 30 times, and this was the first time I ever felt like I was actually being violated,” Schuh said.

RELATED: Airlines damage or lose 29 wheelchairs daily; Here's what wheelchair users need to know

The TSA officer first began the pat-down on her upper body, Schuh said. Then halfway through, she requested a supervisor after feeling uncomfortable with the way it was being performed.

When the supervisor arrived, Schuh said the screening escalated.

“She actually made my caregiver, pick my legs up and spread them. She rubbed up my thighs and touched my vagina. It was humiliating, and it was embarrassing,” Schuh said. “At the end of it, she tells me to open my hands, because they have to swab them, and I can’t. It just is demeaning.”

Schuh filed a complaint. In the response she got, TSA defended their actions and said in part, “these security measures are necessary and appropriate for ensuring the security and confidence of all air travelers.”

“If it’s about safety, this isn’t the way to do it,” Schuh said. “Technology is far too advanced. They can see in an insulated water bottle if there’s liquid in it, but they can’t scan an aluminum tube wheelchair?”

Patricia Mancha, a spokesperson for TSA, said she could not discuss Schuh’s case as it was being investigated, but said the agency took all complaints very seriously.

“If someone is not doing their job properly, if they have any questions or concerns, we want to hear about them,” Mancha said.

When asked if there were other methods TSA was considering to make the screening process less intrusive and uncomfortable for people who can’t walk through the metal detectors, Mancha said “as a policy question, that is something that is explored at headquarters level right now.”

Mancha highlighted a program called TSA Cares that offers assistance to travelers who request help when going through security checkpoints. A service has to be requested 72 hours prior to traveling.

“That’s just another step for people who it’s already challenging to travel,” Schuh said about that program. “It just adds to the many challenges people with disabilities have to go through.”

Schuh suggests TSA policies and procedures be changed, and technology improved to include equipment that scans wheelchairs and eliminates the mandatory pat-downs.

Schuh started an online petition after the incident.

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