Veronica With Four Eyes

How A TSA Pre-Check Helps Me As A Visually Impaired Traveler

TSA Pre-Checks are incredibly useful for any traveler, but I was surprised by how helpful they are for travelers with blindness and low vision. This past March, I went on a plane for the first time ever to go to the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in San Diego, California. When I went through the TSA security line, I found myself struggling to get items like my laptop out of my backpack, while also balancing a carry-on and my blindness cane. On top of that, I discovered the shoes I was wearing weren’t as easy to take off while standing as I thought they were. As one might have predicted, almost everything I was holding fell on the floor or unexpectedly launched off the conveyor belt, and while many kind people were able to help me get my items together, I immediately started thinking about ways I could prevent this from ever happening again.

One of the things that has helped me tremendously is having a TSA Pre-Check, which makes going through airport security infinitely easier for a lot of travelers, and especially those with vision impairments. Here is how having a TSA Pre-Check helps me as a visually impaired traveler.

What is a TSA Pre-Check?

A TSA Pre-Check is a program that allows US citizens or lawful permanent residents that have not been convicted of certain crimes to go through expedited security lanes at participating airports- this works for both domestic and most international flights. TSA Pre-Check services are also available for people that are Global Entry members, as well as NEXUS and SENTRI members. Travelers are issued a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that is attached to their airline tickets and allows them to go through the special security. With a TSA Pre-Check, travelers do not need to remove laptops, shoes, belts, light jackets, or liquids and gels from their carry-on or personal items, though these items still have to be scanned. Most people who go through this expedited security process wait five minutes or less- my current record is two and a half minutes from the moment I stepped in line. The Pre-Check costs $85 and is valid for five years, which is the equivalent of $17 a year.

Will they still search my blindness cane?

With the TSA Pre-Check, I had all of my other items go on the conveyor belt first, and then the security staff member had me step into a full-body scanner. At that point, they took my blindness cane and checked it it while I was in the other scanner, and by the time I stepped out, I was reunited with my cane. I also was presented the option of borrowing one of their canes while mine was being examined, but I didn’t use it because I was only walking about five feet straight ahead.

Applying for a TSA Pre-Check

To apply for a TSA Pre-Check, go to the TSA website at www.tsa.gov and select the option for “TSA Pre-Check.” The form will then ask for the following information:

Page 1

  • Legal name
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Language
  • Email and/or phone number

Page 2

  • Country of birth
  • City of birth
  • State of birth
  • Country of citizenship

Page 3

Questionaire that asks about

  • Previous names
  • Residence questions

Page 4

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Hair color
  • Eye color

Page 5

Mailing address/permanent address

Page 6

  • Question about citizenship
  • Questionnaire about criminal background

Page 7

Select two forms of ID to bring to the Pre-Check appointment. For me, I chose to use my state-issued ID and passport card.

Page 8

Schedule a date and time for the TSA Pre-Check appointment that will complete the process. These appointments take place at the DMV, select airports, and select other places that vary by state. Appointments only take about fifteen minutes.

What to expect at the appointment

For the in-person meeting to get my TSA Pre-Check finalized, I had to verbally verify the information I had provided when completing the online form and sign papers consenting to a background check. After that, I presented my two forms of identification, then I had to put my hands on a machine that scanned my fingerprints. At the end, I paid the $85 fee using my debit card. The meeting was quick and easy.

How long does it take to get?

I went to my TSA Pre-Check appointment on a Monday morning at the airport and had been approved and given my KTN by Thursday. My dad and brother went to the DMV for their appointments and received their KTNs within three days as well. We received emails from the TSA saying that we had been approved, and received instructions to go to the TSA Pre-Check website and look up our numbers.

Adding the KTN to a reservation

To add your KTN to your airline ticket, follow these instructions:

When booking a new flight

  • Go to the frequent flyer profile
  • Look for the box that says Known Traveler Number or KTN (do not select redress number)
  • Type in the KTN

This is not automatically applied to all reservations and needs to be re-entered each time

Adding to an existing reservation

  • Go to reservation details
  • Select “edit traveler information”
  • Look for the box that says Known Traveler Number or KTN (do not select redress number)
  • Type in KTN

Going through security

With my TSA Pre-Check, I go through security in a slightly different way than I would without it. I still put all of my items on a conveyor belt to be scanned, and the pockets of my backpack are searched. I step into a special body scanning machine, and then am reunited with my stuff and can continue to my gate. It’s that easy!

Verdict

I cannot recommend getting a TSA Pre-Check enough for travelers, especially those with vision impairments. It helps to simplify security screenings and make travel easier.

How a TSA Pre-Check helps me as a visually impaired traveler. Get through TSA screenings in minutes and avoid taking everything out of your carry on for $17 a year.



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