For several years, Texas Tech University’s (TTU) College of Education staff has partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB) to provide their students and future teachers real-world exposure to the air traveler experiences and challenges for people who are visually impaired.
TTU asked TSA to help create simulated checkpoint traveler screenings for their students enrolled in TTU’s “Summer Cane Class”— a course that familiarizes and prepares future teachers on how to teach students who are visually impaired about airport travel. The Air Travel Challenge is one of several real-time final tests where students can show competence, capability and readiness to teach visually impaired folks ways to navigate through real-life situations.
The TTU group arrived at the airport blindfolded to simulate the experiences their future students will have while navigating an airport. They used mobility canes to “tap” their way through the terminal, TSA lines and screening scenarios, while noting important locations along the way, such as restrooms, food courts and gift shops.
LBB TSA Officer Tom Harper, a TSA passenger support specialists certified officer, served as this year’s host to the class and provided helpful information regarding travel for visually impaired flyers. He started the day by providing TSA travel tips on how to prepare for travel before arriving at the airport, forms of ID required, the screening process and what else to expect.
Harper also explained the features of the TSA Cares Program including its dedicated helpline (855-787-2227) available for travelers with disabilities, medical conditions and other special circumstances to reach out for assistance during the security screening process.
Once the briefing was completed, the LBB TSA officers provided hands-on security screening with a big dash of Texas hospitality.
The students were able to experience the challenges travelers with disabilities face and looked for ways to help improve the travel experience. In return, TSA officers practiced their skills with assisting special needs passengers and heard from the students what TSA could do better when helping these passengers navigate our checkpoints.
Laura Delcambre, Texas Tech University M.Ed. said the Summer Cane Class has been visiting and exploring the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport for decades, and thanked the airport and officers for continuing to support TTU’s efforts to use hands-on techniques to educate students and prepare them for their future clients who are visually impaired.
Harper added that the students learn and use proper techniques which any passenger needs to successfully and confidently pass through the checkpoint screening process. “For our TSA officers, it provides an excellent opportunity to practice and polish our skills when dealing with special needs passengers. This is a win-win situation for all.”