TSA: Broaden your hiring practices and let Deaf people serve their country!

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David Bahar
David Bahar signed this petition

In light of recent undercover tests by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General where undercover officers snuck fake weapons or explosives through checkpoints an astonishing 70% of the time, would you feel safer at the airport with a homogeneous security apparatus, made up of people who all shared the same skills, or would you want the absolute best person at each position? Talented people who excel at spotting suspicious behavior, or who are more competent than most at spotting weapons in baggage x-rays?

Most people would want the most competent person on the ground, using their skills to keep everyone safe. But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) blocks a certain group of people from careers as Transportation Security Officers – Deaf people, despite multiple studies showing that Deaf people perform better with certain tasks crucial to the success of a Transportation Security Officer (TSO).

For example, several studies showed that Deaf people have higher capacity for processing visual tasks, demonstrating quicker reaction times to visual stimuli. In others, Deaf people were shown to be quicker at recognizing and interpreting body language.

Everything being equal, this gives Deaf people a leg up when it comes to jobs that rely on visual processing or interpreting body language -- such as TSOs, who screen travelers and monitor them for suspicious behavior.

But everything is not equal, and Deaf people are prohibited from being Transportation Security Officers, though the career would otherwise seem uniquely suited for them. Today, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires TSO applicants to pass a hearing test; those who do not are placed on hold, effectively tabling their application and denying them the honor of becoming TSOs.

This artificial barrier to employment not only denies Deaf people careers, it prevents Deaf people from serving their country. But this doesn’t need to be the case: Deaf people are employed as security guards, surveillance managers and expert body language analysts by private companies, and by the governments of other countries. TSA requirement for a hearing test is notable for the fact that it excludes any consideration for the provision of reasonable accommodations -- which private companies are required to provide applicants, per the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Do you want to tell the TSA that you want them to open up their hiring process and let Deaf people work where they are most successful? Sign this petition!