Paving the way for accessibility with security training at Canberra Airport

Paving the way for accessibility with security training at Canberra Airport

Paving the way for accessibility with security training at Canberra Airport

11 November 2022

Cancer Council ACT has delivered first-of-its-kind training with Canberra Airport on breast prostheses and security screening processes. This positive start will see Canberra Airport continue to explore how they can best accommodate medical considerations and hidden disabilities regarding the implementation of the new scanning technology.
Canberra Airport is one of the first in Australia to have upgraded their scanning technology since the mandate was announced by the Australian Government to move from metal detector scanners to full body scanners that use nonionising millimetre-wave imaging.

Michael Thomson, Head of Aviation said, “As we have implemented the new scanning technology, we have become aware of many considerations around supporting those with medical concerns and hidden disabilities. Working with Cancer Council ACT on the breast protheses training was a great start, and we were pleased to have several of our staff undertake this. We are looking into how we best continue this and are in discussion with various disability associations on broader training and developing our disabilities program.”
The new body scanning technology at Canberra Airport detects foreign items worn on the body, under clothing. For people who have undergone breast cancer surgery, they have found that the new scanners have picked up their breast prostheses. This requires them to undertake an additional secondary screening process which includes handheld security devices. A private room is offered at the start the secondary screening process.

Cancer Council ACT saw this as an opportunity to support and enhance the experiences of cancer survivors when travelling. The training was designed to provide education to security staff about cancer patients and breast cancer, and to improve skills when dealing with people affected by cancer who may be wearing prostheses (also known as breast forms).
Cancer Council ACT worked with ACT Breast Care Nurse Karen McKinnon of Calvary Hospital and Gillian Horton, owner of Colleen’s Lingerie and Swimwear and breast cancer survivor, in producing the training.

For many cancer patients, public security scanning can be an anxious experience due to trauma from past medical scans and treatment. People with medical considerations and hidden disabilities, such as those wearing breast prostheses, may also feel that their privacy regarding their condition is affected.
Gillian Horton is a breast cancer survivor and uses a breast prosthesis after having a single mastectomy as part of her treatment. For Gillian airport security scanners generate a sense of anxiety with consideration of her cancer treatment and breast prosthesis.

Gillian stated, “I remember the first time I was asked to go through one of the full body scanners, I could feel a panic attack coming on. Part of it was from the history of having been through so many scanning machines throughout treatment, and concerns around that. I found the more I was waiting the more anxious I was getting and really had to focus on my breathing. Also, a lot of what women are concerned about is their privacy.”

“It has been exciting to be part of the training, and to realise that my own experience was important. The training is important for that understanding. It’s the language that is used that may or may not help. It’s also essential for security staff to be aware of what a breast prosthesis looks like.”
Cancer Council ACT CEO Verity Hawkins says, “An important part of this training is about educating the various security staff at an airport about how communication and respect can support cancer patients, and others with devices or prostheses.”

“We are pleased that we have been able to respond to this issue and have recently delivered three training sessions with Canberra Airport and have planned ahead for continuous refresher training sessions.”

“Feedback on this training was excellent and engagement noticeably increased throughout the sessions. We strongly feel that there is the potential to roll out this training to all airports across the country.”

For people travelling with medical considerations or disabilities, please advise security staff if you have concerns and need further assistance so they can support your needs.