Last updated: 11:20 AM ET, Wed May 04 2016

Wheelchair-Bound Olympian Gets Apology from TSA

Impacting Travel | Josh Lew | May 04, 2016

Wheelchair-Bound Olympian Gets Apology from TSA

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Former Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen received an apology from the TSA recently after she said she was “humiliated” during a full body search at Denver International Airport over the weekend. 

The former swimmer was paralyzed from the waist down after a serious ATV accident in Arizona in 2014. She is now confined to a wheelchair. Because she travels frequently, she signed up for the TSA’s PreCheck program. However, because of her wheelchair, she is unable to pass through the metal detector. 

It is common practice in these cases for the TSA agent to do a visual check of the wheelchair and perhaps swab quickly to check for explosive residue.

This past weekend in Denver, however, the supervising agent ordered Van Dyken-Rouen to undergo a full-body search. When Van Dyken-Rouen protested and tried to explain that this was not the usual procedure, she claims the supervisor told her “every other airport is wrong and any other time you’ve flown through Denver and they did not do that, it’s wrong. I’m right.” 

READ MORE: United Fined For Treatment of Passengers With Disabilities

The former swimmer said that then she was then subject to a full body search without being given the option to move to a private area. She told ABC News that the process was humiliating. “They go around your breast. They basically go under your butt. They touch things that are not appropriate and it’s really embarrassing.”

Van Dyken-Rouen aired her frustrations on Instagram on Sunday. Because of her social media following, the story took off and the TSA eventually took notice. 

Their statement in response to Van Dyken-Rouen's allegations took some people by surprise because it almost immediately admitted that the screeners acted incorrectly. “The TSA reviews passenger complaints, and in this case determined that our officers did not follow correct screening protocols when Ms. Amy Van Dyken came through the security checkpoint at Denver International Airport (DEN) this weekend. TSA’s federal security director has reached out to Ms. Van Dyken. The officers involved are undergoing retraining, and TSA Denver is providing refresher training to all of its officers as well.” 

READ MORE: Accomable Helps Disabled Travelers Find Suitable Accommodations

Van Dyken-Rouen says that she accepted the TSA’s apology via Instagram, posting “"I have to say a big THANK YOU to @denairport TSA for making sure they are trained for people with disabilities. I'm not a lightning rod, but I can and will speak out to help others who are afraid to speak out.” 

Perhaps this was a case of “choose your battles” for the TSA. The agency is already under fire for being unable to keep up with the recent increases in passenger numbers and the failure to get enough people to sign up for its PreCheck program. 


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