TSA Refuses to Let a Mute Stroke Victim Fly Because She Can’t Speak Her Name

A woman who left mute by a stroke she had 10 years ago was set to fly from Los Angeles to Phoenix. Her drivers license was expired. The TSA document checker insisted she state her name, but she couldn’t, because she’s mute. So she wasn’t allowed to fly.

A TSA representative says “it could have been handled differently by the family” (along with the TSA itself) and that it won’t happen to this family next time because they now know about the special programs the TSA offers for disabled people. Apparently document checkers are not required to know about such programs, however.

The problems began when Heidi, who was left wheelchair-bound and unable to speak or write after a stroke a decade ago, was stopped by the Transportation Security Administration due to an expired driver’s license, CNN reported.

Wright claims the TSA agent was rude and insensitive, insisting Heidi talk.

“I showed her ID, her (Social Security card) and her DMV papers,” Wright said, to no avail.

“He just wanted me to make my sister talk, and I couldn’t believe it.

“I was just standing there, tears were coming out and I was like, ‘Are you serious? We can’t get her to talk.’”

Instead of flying she wound up on an 8 hour bus trip.

As they say, a few bad apples who in no way undermine the hard work that thousands of men and women at the TSA do to keep us safe, day in and day out.

(HT: Reid)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. before reading the story in full, i had assumed that Doug Parker had discontinued her ability to speak the night before while she was sleeping.

    as an aside, ok… 1st line didn’t know the rules and was ridiculous about it. but, what- no managers @ TSA to maybe run it by before shooing her out of the airport and off to find a bus to endure for 8 hours? really pathetic.

  2. @Gary. i’ll assume Mark doesn’t like my sense of humour and is talking to me, not you…

    i must have been 1/2 asleep when i read/wrote it, as i thought the story was on Ben’s blog!

  3. @Buddha – Wow! You’re here too? Ben’s blog not enough to advertise what a “douchebag” YOU are? Get help troll…

  4. I care! People who get a tiny bit of power who should never have it never know how to control it. A Bouncer at a hot night club or new police officer anyone? The TSA guy is the exact same. What an idiot.

  5. Just another day on the job for the TSA – protecting America from its mute citizens…Good grief!How pathetic have we become?

  6. @abby – your second point was my first thought. I can’t believe there was no escalation to a supervisor or lead TSA employee who should have been able to resolve this situation.

    My mother had advanced ALS (lou gehrig’s disease) when she traveled to my wedding in 2003. She couldn’t speak clearly at all (I could decipher, but was one of a few) and was wheelchair-bound. TSA did not make transit easy, although we did make it through. They actually tried to make her walk through the WTMD until we escalated. Of course, she still got swabbed, patted down, and wanded while holding up her arms. Oy.

  7. TSA theatre does not keep us safe. A reinforced locked cockpit door and knowledge of certain death in a hijack situation keeps us safe.

  8. The problem is not so much the rules (which we love to hate, but do have a purpose in preventing healthy bad people pretending to be in some way disabled), but the implementation of them. The TSA forgets that 99.999999% of people are not about to blow up a plane or crash it. There is absolutely no cause for discourtesy or anything else. Assume that the person is honest and innocent, do the required checks courteously and only become heavy if they are hiding something. Not the other way around.

    It used to be that the immigration people were notorious for being rude, gratuitously insulting foreign tourists who were coming to spend their money here. They have largely been retrained so that, despite the grossly invasive rules, and the multi-hour waits, the agents themselves are almost always pleasant and polite – yet they probably deal with a much higher percentage of people who are trying to cheat the system.

    So it is possible to be efficient and courteous at the same time. Horrible staff and incomptent management permeate the TSA – my own view is that it needs a complete root and branch overhaul or a total re-invention. Aim to lose 90%+ of the existing staff and management, and start again.

  9. I am convinced the TSA is just another “government jobs” program. These people are worse than useless.

  10. I’m perfectly fine with not letting someone past security if they don’t have a valid identification – the rules in that regard are pretty straightforward

    But what I find most disturbing (besides everything brought up in the comments) is what if this person stated their name? Really, that’s all it takes for someone without valid identification to clear security? Just stating your name?

  11. @Rob first of all what does valid identification have to do not being a terrorist? second, why is this woman’s expired drivers license a problem, what’s magical about one day after versus one day before an arbitrary date? third, there are rules in place for validating identity without a drivers license anyway. fourth, the tsa violated its own procedures with regard to disabled individuals. Her freedom was limited, that’s a big deal. That it was done for no meaningful valid purpose makes it pathetic.

  12. “third, there are rules in place for validating identity without a drivers license anyway”

    And my main issue is, that rule is apparently “state your name”

    I have no problems if you don’t believe not having a valid form of identification provides a security threat…. just that if you require valid identification to clear security (presumably for security purposes), then the workaround were you not to have valid id should be something a little more verifiable than “state your name”

    If you’re going to have a policy of “requires valid ID or the ability to know the information on the non-valid ID you have”, then there’s no point in asking for valid ID

  13. There’s a premise that an expired identification card out there could be forged, and that it would not be possible to recognize as it was from some absurd era. This premise, like the need to show any id at all, is absurd to me. Gary, I sure wish you’d tell me what actions I can take besides just getting aggravated by these costly, liberty-infringing antics, and the capitulation from all the ‘just fall in line’ crowd.

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