TSA and the #CultOfCompliance – an ongoing project

I’m interested in all the ways the “Cult of Compliance,” my term for the collective way that our society promotes and rewards compliance to authority, protects authority figures who treat compliance as sacred, and criminalizes noncompliance, emerges in our society. Disability, in particular, exposes the manifestations of the cult of compliance, while people with disabilities become radically endangered when assumptions about typical minds and bodies shape the rules with which one must comply.

Over the weekend, this horrible story alleging violence at the Memphis airport (based on a new lawsuit) went viral:

Hannah Cohen set off the metal detector at a security checkpoint at the Memphis International Airport, and she was led away for additional screening, reported WREG-TV.
“They wanted to do further scanning, (but) she was reluctant — she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” said her mother, Shirley Cohen.
Cohen said she tried to tell agents with the Transportation Security Administration that her 19-year-old daughter is partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralyzed and easily confused — but she said police kept her away from the security agents.
The confused and terrified young woman tried to run away, her mother said, and agents violently took her to the ground.
“She’s trying to get away from them, but in the next instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor,” Cohen said. “There was blood everywhere.”

Two things:

The TSAs response was that disabled individuals or their families/caregivers can call ahead. I’ve spoken to a lot of folks who have called ahead, but it hasn’t worked especially well for them. More importantly, no one should have to call ahead to be guaranteed their fundamental civil rights (more on that here and here).

Second, when the mother started talking about disability, that should start an immediate process to provide reasonable accommodations. It might not be reasonable to just let her through, sure, but it’s damn well reasonable to let her mother approach, to back up, to de-escalate, to create space.

I am actively seeking more stories about the TSA and disability, positive or negative. Feel free to post in comments or email me.

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