Inclusion in the airport: A bad example

About a month ago, I discussed a story about more than reasonable accommodation in Heathrow airport for a young man with autism. The article reads, in part:

The 21-year-old has severe autism and obsessive compulsive disorder,
but has to negotiate the hectic bustle of Heathrow airport to attend
Boston Higashi High School in the US.
To cater for him, staff have attempted to re-create the same conditions every time he flies.
Four times a year for five years, Aaran has met the same
airport staff, at the same check-in desk, visiting the same shops,
leaving from the same gate on to a plane on which the same seats are

Let’s look at a comparable story from the U.S.

The trouble began when Bergeron and Apollo, traveling with friends, were
going through security at the Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle. They were on
their way to California to take part in a photo shoot for a campaign
called “Everybody Plays,” which celebrates children of differing
physical abilities. That was a great irony, Bergeron said, as “we were
only flying because of his medical issues.” 

So they were on their way to an event on inclusion.

Apollo was born with a condition known as a double aortic arch, which
has led to trachea and esophagus problems that make it difficult for him
to swallow food. To help him take in enough calories to grow, he’s been
outfitted with a permanent gastronomy tube to his stomach, through
which his parents feed him high-calorie formula three times a day. It
was the cans of formula that sent TSA agents in Seattle into high-alert

“I walked right up to the first agent and told her, ‘My son is tube-fed
and this cooler has formula and medical supplies in it,’” Bergeron
said, explaining that she had hoped that being direct would be a helpful
approach and that it would have prompted a TSA agent to do a thorough
search and swab of the items before sending them through to their gate.

she said, the agent directed her to continue through the line and to
put the bag through the X-ray machine, and “didn’t even give a heads-up
to the next agent.” That’s when the agent at the machine “freaked out,”
Bergeron said, because of the liquid—which was then put through a scan
that indicated “explosive residue” had been detected. “Clearly, the
things that test for explosive residue don’t work very well,” she said,
adding that, at that point, “they surrounded me and began treating me
like a suspect—of what I don’t know.”

They were escorted to a restroom then, as Apollo
had to go, but Bergeron was not allowed to take him alone. Then the two
were ushered to a private room where agents gave Bergeron a thorough
pat-down and where a nervous Apollo began to cry and beg his mom to hold
him. Bergeron was told she couldn’t touch her son because she could
“contaminate” him. “It was horribly traumatic for him,” she said.

I can imagine Nico’s panic under this situation. Of course they missed their flight. Of course this is not an isolated incident. Of course the TSA says – if you don’t want to be harassed, call ahead. And yes, you should call ahead, but you shouldn’t have to.

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