Woman in wheelchair claims TSA agents humiliated her at Nashville airport

National & World

(CNN) – A Michigan woman is upset TSA agents at a Nashville area airport insisted she get out of her wheelchair so they could swab it.

She says the experience was humiliating, the TSA insists its agents followed procedure.

It was meant to be an uneventful quick trip to Nashville for Erica Coulston.

“We just came in for a Vanderbilt appointment.”

But it was before her flight back home when Erica, who uses a wheelchair, says TSA agents in Nashville humiliated her during what usually is a typical pat-down.

“They’ll pat down your waist. I can lean forward so they’ll pat down my back and go along my waist band.”

It was all normal until one TSA agent explained they needed to inspect her entire seat cushion.

“I explained to him I was paralyzed from the chest down, I can’t stand or walk, I can’t lift up enough for them to clear underneath my bottom on the seat cushion.”

Erica says she was never offered a private room for the screening, or for what happened next.

“Out of desperation I told him, the only thing is I can do is I can be lifted up out of my chair. And that’s eventually what we did.”

“So, this man’s insisting we lift Erica out of her chair so he can swab.”

Erica says this, which they caught on camera, has never happened to her before at a TSA checkpoint.

“I was humiliated. This was just totally dehumanizing and that feeling of hopelessness, what am I supposed to do?”

The TSA’s website states that officers will screen seat cushions for traces of explosives.

And a TSA representative told Erica despite the “extremely upsetting” procedure, they determined “the screening process was followed correctly.”

Still, Erica hopes TSA agents undergo more training with access to special equipment, to better help those in wheelchairs in the future.

The TSA says it tries to accommodate people the best it can, but wheelchair seat cushions have to be cleared.

Agents in Knoxville, Tennessee found a handgun hidden inside one two years ago.

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This story was originally published on July 25, 2019

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