April 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio April 2003 Current Issue
April 2003 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


Children and travelers with disabilities are treated more respectfully at the airport

Kinder security. In recent years, passengers with disabilities had a lot to complain about when it came to the screening process at airports. Among the problems widely cited: Screeners were accused of “talking down” to them or communicating only with their companions; the screening process was inconsistent from airport to airport; and passengers with disabilities typically were separated from their equipment and their carry-ons.

When the Transportation Security Administration was formed following 9/11, those complaints were taken seriously. In February 2002, the TSA began creating policies and training modules for the nearly 50,000 screeners who were scheduled to take over the job at all U.S. airports. Sandra Cammaroto, formerly with the Federal Aviation Administration, was hired as senior disability adviser and program manager, charged with designing the training.

Cammaroto created a disability coalition for the TSA, which includes volunteers from such organizations as the American Council of the Blind, the American Diabetes Association and the National Council on Disability.

“Our goal is to screen people and their equipment more effectively, while being more sensitive to them and their disabilities,” says Cammaroto, who worked directly with the coalition groups to learn more about their needs. (For instance, she spent a week with The Seeing Eye, an organization based in Morristown, N.J., exploring how guide dogs are matched with people.)

The resulting changes to the screening process, which the TSA won’t discuss in detail for security reasons, have been in effect since last November. “A lot of this has to do with communication and assistance,” Cammaroto says.

The TSA also is working to ease screening for passengers traveling with children by making the security check fun for kids. In a pilot program under way at Denver International Airport, TSA screeners use puppets to entertain children as they go through the metal detector. Anyone who sets off the alarm, regardless of age, must go through a second screening. For this, children stand on mats decorated with cats and dinosaurs while being scanned with a wand covered with a fuzzy caterpillar. If successful, DIA’s program could be rolled out at all 429 U.S. commercial airports. Tips for passengers with disabilities and people traveling with children can be found at

Laptops unleashed. As wireless Internet connections continue to proliferate, Santa Clara, Calif.-based computer chip maker Intel ( has surveyed the land to find the top cities offering such services.

The “Most Unwired Cities” survey lists the top 100 U.S. regions with the best wireless Internet accessibility. Surprisingly, Silicon Valley (San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.) comes in second to the Portland, Ore.Vancouver, Wash., area.

The findings are based on the number of public and commercial wireless-access points (called hot spots), cell-phone coverage allowing wide-area-network Internet access, and the number of people in the area with Web access. The data also was weighed by population to see how many people share hot spots within the regions.

Rounding out the top 10 are Austin, Texas; the Seattle area (including Bellevue, Everett and Tacoma); Orange County, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; San Diego; Denver; Ventura, Calif.; and Boston.

Free phone offer. Through the end of this year, travelers to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia who pick up a car from Alamo Rent A Car ( can get a cell phone to use for the duration of the car rental. The phones, from Cellhire USA, come with accessory packs, including batteries, an in-vehicle rapid charger and adapters. Travelers pay for calls received and made, plus $10 for a prepaid envelope to return the phone.

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