Traveling with disabilities or a medical condition can be a challenge.  Especially when some conditions are more obvious than others.  This week, celiac organizations and other health advocacy groups banded together to show support for travelers with disabilities in a letter sent to the head of the Transportation Safety Administration John Pistole.

Spearheaded by the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, the goal is to get the TSA to be more understanding of discreet airport security screenings for those with medical issues.  The action by BCAN was prompted when a TSA agent apparently caused a traveler’s urostomy bag to spill on himself during a pat down. See the story here. With the letter to Pistole, BCAN brought in the reinforcements — about two dozen other advocacy groups on various health issues, from celiac disease to diabetes to Crohn’s/Colitis to support the this important cause.

So what does this have to do with celiac disease?

Both the Celiac Sprue Association and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness are on board — attaching their names in support of this important area of awareness.  Update! Alice Bast, Founder and President of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness also works with  the Digestive Disease National Coalition and sent The Savvy Celiac this statement.

“I feel strongly that those with serious and chronic conditions need to be in support of one another. We work together as a coalition to advocate for additional funding for digestive diseases. We are all similar in that we overcome many daily challenges in an effort to manage these conditions and preserve our health. We like to be a team player!  In writing Mr. Pistole, our sole appeal was that travelers with medical conditions and disabilities deserve to be treated with respect, regardless of what appliance, catheter, port, or other medical device is attached to their bodies.

The celiac community knows far too well the importance and need for professional education and how a single industry can so critically impact our health and our lives.”  – Alice Bast, NFCA president and founder

Well said Ms. Bast.

It affects our family in a small way when we travel.  I bring our medically-required gluten-free food with us on vacation.  I may bring  just enough to get us through a few meals or a bunch of snacks.  But when we went to Charleston, SC and stayed at a home there I brought everything:  pasta, snacks, donuts, muffins.  And it all went in a box labeled “medical supplies”, and you can bring it as an additional carry-on free of charge (at least for Delta) — thus needing to take it through the rigorous security process.

But, while my family may not need the discreetness that others – with celiac disease and without –  absolutely deserve, we do need to ensure understanding and education that we’re not just bringing food because we are avoiding paying for expensive airport dining or that we don’t like airplane food.  It’s because we must eat only gluten-free food and we cannot guarantee an airport restaurant will be accommodating to our needs and we cannot trust an airplane to get us a safe gluten-free snack/meal (Can you imagine going somewhere and not being able to eat a thing?– that is what it can be like!).  So we must take measures to ensure we have food we can eat

The TSA has created a notification card for travelers to fill out and give to screeners if you need them to know about any unexpected or private medical condition before you go through security. It will not exempt you from screening however.  The cards are not easily found on the TSA website, but you can find it on the BCAN site.

Thank you to the celiac groups for supporting this cause and we here at The Savvy Celiac hope this discussion takes hold with new education and rules for screeners.

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4 Responses to “Celiac Groups Support Disability Awareness for TSA”

  1. Wow, I didn’t realize you could carry on gluten free food. That’s a great tip. Were you able to bring liquids?

  2. Anonymous,
    No I didn’t bring any of that. In part because 1. it gets heavy and 2. they still have the rule of only a limited amount of liquid going onto the plane.
    Good luck!

  3. I bring GF food all the time on board planes. I spent months in Ireland and one suitcase (checked bag) was just GF food! I didn’t know what was over there and I didn’t want to go hungry =) But on the plane I bring fruits, veggies, bread, crackers, or other munchies, and have even brought PB&J sandwiches. While airlines offer GF meals, they are not edible. Sometimes they don’t bring along enough GF meals and you may not get one even though you requested one ahead of time. So I am always prepared. As for liquids, once I’m past security I purchase water, juice, and sodas (all in bottles) and bring them on with me.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this! I am taking a school trip with my daughter this summer and will have to bring a decent amount of food with us!

  5. I just got off the phone with TSA, and they seem to have become even more accomodating. The gentleman said that as long as you allow extra time and declare the items, they just have a special screening process they can put even greater amounts of liquids through. They know about cross-contamination and that even condiments used elsewhere can be of issues. They’re trying, it seems!

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