The Chronically Ill and Disabled Deserve Better Than Discrimination and Harassment from the TSA

David Rowland, age 77, is a cancer survivor and former veteran of the Air Force. He is also a tube feeder. People who use a feeding tube are considered disabled under the law. David is planning on attending this year’s Oley Foundation conference, an event which is geared towards those who use intravenous nutrition and tube feeding. Normally, he would be flying up from his residence in South Carolina, but instead he plans to drive. This is because of a terrible incident that happened to him that has left him fearful of flying.

David has grown accustomed to getting extra pat-downs when trying to get through airport security, but one day, an incident occurred that, in David’s words, could be accurately described as assault as opposed to a routine search.

Due to his artificial knee, David routinely sets off the security scanners. He was getting pulled aside for another pat down on March 6th, 2017, when he suddenly realized that many of his valuables, including his wallet, cell phone, and computer, were out of sight. Quite reasonably, David asked the TSA agent nearby to bring the items over. The agent complied, but not without frustration.

Then the indignity began. David was ordered to pull up his pants, but the pat down soon turned into a shake down, and the agent delivered excessive violent blows to David’s inner thighs and genitalia. He walked away from the incident humiliated and in pain. The pain in David’s genitals did not go away and prompted him to visit his doctor, who told him that blows to the genitals can lead to infection. He was given antibiotics and eventually recovered.

Regardless, David is now afraid to fly in the manner that he used to. His efforts to contact the TSA in order to properly report the unacceptable incident have been unsuccessful. The difficulties have convinced him that he was subject to what amounted to discrimination and assault.

Harsh treatment of the disabled and the elderly is simply unacceptable. Tube feeders like David should not have to live in fear of taking a commercial flight because of the fear of assault from a TSA agent. 

We need to do better as a society so that the disabled can live the dignified lives that they deserve just like anyone else.


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