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How to notarize for a visually impaired signer

A person with a white cane used for visual assistance.

Updated 7-31-23. Things can get complicated if you are asked to notarize for a signer who is visually impaired. How can you be sure the signer is willing if the signer can’t read the document? Don’t worry, there are ways to overcome these extra challenges, as long as you are careful.

Making sure the signer knows what’s being signed

The most important task is to make sure that the signer is aware of the document being signed and notarized. However, since a visually impaired signer can’t read the document to confirm this, you’ll need to confirm the signer knows what the document actually says. Some states provide instructions when notarizing for a visually impaired signer:

  • Some states, such as California, do not provide statutory guidelines when notarizing for someone who's visually impaired. If your state does not provide guidelines for notarizing for a person with visual impairment, you can still talk with the signer and ask if the signer can describe the document in general terms. If the signer’s description is different, or the signer does not seem to recognize its contents, then do not proceed with the notarization.
  • When notarizing for a visually impaired person, a Florida, Illinois and Indiana Notary, for example, must first read the document to the signer. The Notary may not explain the document’s meaning or answer questions about its legal effect, as this is considered the unauthorized practice of law. Though not required by law in Maine or North Dakota, these states also recommend reading the document to the signer without offering advice or asking questions.

Inability to sign

In some cases, a customer may not be able to sign due to visual impairment. If a person is unable to sign a document due to visual impairment, many states — including Iowa, Michigan and Washington — permit the signer to direct the Notary or another person to sign the disabled person’s name on the document (known as "signature by proxy") while the disabled person is present during a notarization. Be sure to follow any instructions or requirements in your state — for example, in Michigan, the Notary may sign the name of the disabled individual, but the individual must be present before the Notary and orally, physically or otherwise direct the Notary to sign. The Notary also must write beneath the signature, “Signature affixed pursuant to section 33 of the Michigan notary public act.”

In some states, additional witnesses must be present before a third party can sign on behalf of a disabled individual. For example, MassachusettsNebraskaNorth Carolina, and Rhode Island only permit disabled signers to direct someone else to sign their name if two witnesses unaffected by the document are present, and Texas requires a single witness who must also be identified by the Notary.  Wyoming allows a single witness unaffected by the document to sign as a proxy in the Notary's presence, or a Wyoming Notary may be directed to sign as the proxy if 2 witnesses unaffected by the document are present. 

Because asking another person to sign on their behalf leaves a disabled signer extremely vulnerable to potential exploitation, it’s strongly recommended you first contact your state Notary-regulating office or the NNA Notary Hotline if you are asked to do this and have any questions or concerns.

Related Articles:

A guide to notarizing for physically impaired signers

Notary Tip: How to be prepared for signers with special needs


Add your comment

Carolyn Murphy

18 Oct 2016

Don't have a comment. Just want to read the article.

Mister J

21 Oct 2016

Some documents (contracts, etc.) will take an hour or more to read out loud to the client. This should be considered separate from the notarial act, and subject to an extra fee!

Debbie Taskila

12 Jan 2017

This is more of a question than a comment, but somewhat related. What if you have been asked to notarize a document, but the person does not speak English and has bought along a translator?

National Notary Association

12 Jan 2017

Hi Debbie. Only the state of Arizona permits Notaries to communicate with signers through an interpreter. For more information, please see this article:

michael marino

13 Aug 2018

Are there any specific giudlines for N.Y.S notarys when a Customer is visually impaired? Thank u

National Notary Association

15 Aug 2018

Hello. New York Notary law does not provide specific guidelines for notarizing for a visually impaired signer.

Jerry Lucas

27 Jan 2020

If the document is available in electronic form, there are many free websites and phone apps that do Text To Speech (TTS) reading, so the person can listen to the document content. A notary cannot charge more money to serve a person with a disability, even if it takes more time or effort. Beware of disability discrimination laws.

Djuana Hodges

11 Apr 2022

So what are the status for Tennessee for signing for visual impairment

National Notary Association

11 Apr 2022

Hello. Tennessee does not provide specific instructions for notarizing for a visually impaired signer.

Robert Joel Siegel

11 Apr 2022

Please advise on Oregon specific guidelines for a visually impaired signer. Thank you

National Notary Association

11 Apr 2022

Hello. Oregon does not provide its Notaries with specific instructions for notarizing for a visually impaired signer. However, the state Notary Public Guide says the following: “The notary, by the act of notarizing, declares that the signer did so freely and willingly. This can be especially important when people who are easily victimized must sign legal documents; i.e., minors, the infirm, and non-English speaking individuals. “The notary must make a judgment that the signer is aware of what they are signing. If the notary is questioning the awareness of the signer, the notary can engage in normal conversation with the individual. After a few minutes, it should be apparent if he or she is incoherent, disoriented, or otherwise incapacitated. When in doubt, the notary can get the opinion of a doctor or an attorney” If a person is unable to sign a document due to a physical impairment, Oregon permits a signature by proxy: “If an individual is physically unable to sign a record, the individual may direct an individual other than the notarial officer to sign the individual’s name on the record. The notarial officer shall insert ‘Signature affixed by (name of other individual) at the direction of (name of individual)’ or words of similar import” (ORS 194.250).

Amanda Bennett

12 Apr 2022

I called the Texas Secretary of State last week. Check the ADA Department of disability. Federal law trumps state. No discrimination allowed. Interpreters if they bring one. Or if you can sign fluently. Ask your client what their preferred mode of communication is. Go from there. Blind - Don’t forget they already sat and discussed everything in the docs before the notary shows up - we just get signatures after stating what the doc is. If they are legally blind they will bring someone.

National Notary Association

02 Jun 2022

There is no law in Texas that addresses the use of interpreters. The Notary Code of Professional Conduct indicates the following: III-C-4: Direct Communication Essential The Notary shall not perform a notarial act if the principal or witness identifying the principal, if any, cannot directly communicate with the Notary in the same language, regardless of the presence of a third-party interpreter or translator, unless authorized by law.

Ruby Jean Pringle

06 Jun 2022

This was so helpful.


29 Mar 2023

What does the Notary Law in Colorado require for visually impaired signer

National Notary Association

04 Apr 2023

“With the exception of use of an interpreter for deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind individuals, a notary public may not use an interpreter, a translator, or related services to communicate with the individual for whom the notary public is performing a notarial act. This prohibition applies to all methods of notarization, including electronic and remote notarization, authorized by The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (Title 24, Article 24, Part 5, C.R.S.). “In accordance with section 6-1-707(1)(e)(I), C.R.S., an interpreter for deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind individuals must hold either: “(a) A valid certification issued by the registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. or a successor entity; or “(b) A valid certification for sign language interpretation approved by the Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind. “The interpreter must not have a disqualifying interest. For the purposes of this Rule 2.3.4, an interpreter has a disqualifying interest in a record if: “(a) The interpreter or the interpreter’s spouse, partner in a civil union, ancestor, descendent, or sibling is a party to or is named in the record that is to be notarized; or “(b) The interpreter or the interpreter’s spouse or partner in a civil union may receive directly, and as a proximate result of the notarization, any advantage, right, title, interest, cash, or property exceeding in value the sum of any fee for interpreter services” (8 CCR 1505-11, Rules 2.3.2, 2.3.3, and 2.3.4).

10 Apr 2023

I have a client who is visually impaired (legally blind) in the State of California. All though the California hand book does not have guidance for this, aside from insuring that the signer knows what they are signing, who signs for them or do they do a signature by mark? Thank you for your guidance.... Janna Wilson

National Notary association

28 Apr 2023

Hello. California provides the following guidance for notarizing a signature by mark: “‘Signature’ or ‘subscription’ includes mark when the signer or subscriber cannot write, such signer’s or subscriber’s name being written near the mark by a witness who writes his own name near the signer’s or subscriber’s name; but a signature or subscription by mark can be acknowledged or can serve as a signature or subscription to a sworn statement only when two witnesses so sign their own names thereto” (GC 16; see also CC 14 and CCP 17[a]). “A person who cannot write his or her name still can acknowledge his or her signature on a document, or subscribe and swear to an affidavit, by making a mark. (California Civil Code section 14.) To perform a notarization with a signature by mark, the notary public still performs the steps required for the appropriate notarial act, such as an acknowledgment or jurat. The notary public must use the appropriate form as well. The notary public must confirm the identity of the person making the mark, by satisfactory evidence. (California Civil Code section 1185.)” “A notary public is not required to identify the two persons who witnessed the signing by mark or to have the two witnesses sign the notary public’s journal. Exception: If the witnesses were acting in the capacity of credible witnesses in establishing the identity of the person signing by mark, then the witnesses’ signatures should be entered in the notary public’s journal” (Notary Public Handbook)

Janessa West

25 Apr 2023

Missouri- pretty aure we do not have any specific laws or guidance on this. Just received a request with a similar situation- signer had a stroke, which rendered him blind and having difficulty with ability to hold a pen to write. He is coherent and able to speak. So we discussed the possibility of the family reading the documents to him beforehand and then signing by Mark with the Notary and two witnesses. I am going to do my best to figure out how to best accommodate the signer and assist in getting it completed if that indeed is his wishes.

National Notary Association

28 Apr 2023

Hello. The rules for notarizing a signature by mark in Missouri are as follows. Please note that the two witnesses for a signature by mark may not have an interest in the document: “A notary may certify the affixation of a signature by mark by a principal on a document presented for notarization if: “(1) The mark is affixed in the presence of the notary and two witnesses disinterested in the document; “(2) Both witnesses sign their own names beside the mark; “(3) The notary writes below the mark: “Mark affixed by (name of signer by mark) in the presence of (names and addresses of two witnesses) and the undersigned notary pursuant to section 486.645, RSMo”; and “(4) The notary notarizes the signature by mark through an acknowledgment, jurat, or signature witnessing” (RSMo 486.645.2).

Oscar C. Brown Jr

14 Aug 2023

This was helpful in some cases, however, there are lots of unanswered questions.


14 Aug 2023

What if it is a RON? The State of Virginia for example does not mention anything in regard. The NNA Hotline said you can ask some questions to the signer before starting the notarization process, explain the content of the document, and have someone assist them to sign. I'm still wondering if we ask the right questions for this process.


14 Aug 2023

Does Alabama have any guidelines to assist visually impaired and/or Special Needs Signers of any capacity?

National notary Association

21 Aug 2023

Hello. In Alabama, “The words ‘signature’ or ‘subscription’ include a mark when the person cannot write, if his name is written near the mark, and witnessed by a person who writes his own name as a witness, and include with respect to corporate securities facsimile signature placed upon any instrument or writing with intent to execute or authenticate such instrument or writing” (COA 1-1-2[4]). In regard to written conveyances of land, “…if he is not able to sign his name, then his name must be written for him, with the words ‘his mark’ written against the same, or over it; the execution of such conveyance must be attested by one witness or, where the party cannot write, by two witnesses who are able to write and who must write their names as witnesses; or, if he can write his name but does not do so and his name is written for him by another, then the execution must be attested by two witnesses who can and do write their names” (COA 35-4-20).

Harriett DeSilvia

14 Aug 2023

Hello, Are there any requirements for State of Georgia?

National Notary Association

21 Aug 2023

Hello. Georgia does not provide specific guidance on this issue.

Respect for disabled

14 Aug 2023

Im not visually impaired but I am Deaf and have significant interactions with other “disabled “ persons including Blind. It is very important to follow the instructions of the disabled person. Naturally you must follow the laws of your state, but in states with out guidance, it would be very rude to get into the Nature of the document if you would not do so with a able bodied person. ASK the disabled signer what they want. Most of us are very independent and do not want help unless we ask for it.

14 Aug 2023

What are the rules for signing for visually impaired in Vermont?

National Notary Association

21 Aug 2023

Hello. Vermont does not provide specific guidance on this issue.

Jan Rutkowski

14 Aug 2023

I would like to know if a signer is visually impaired and needs a pdf document signed but is not aware of the contents of the document, can the pdf document be read to the signer through the computer prior to signing. If it is a hard copy they can ask who ever sent them the document to send it as a pdf and then push read out loud so they can understand what they are signing prior to signing and notarizing the document.

National Notary Association

15 Aug 2023

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Luz Rose

14 Aug 2023

CA. I’ve had 3 signers visually impaired. They needed a guide where to sign and they did great! I think the lenders did a great job explaining the docs to them. So, it was easy for both of us! Only one of them had a signature card guide, that was even better.

Hanif Thakor

16 Aug 2023

I'm a notary in California. Couple of weeks ago, I had Down syndrome lady wanted to notarize the document which will give authorization to her dad, sister, and brother. But her sister was doing all talking. Principal barely said hi to me. She didn't seem to know what she was signing. So I had refused to notarize her document. What would you do in this case? Thank you!

National Notary Association

21 Aug 2023

Hello. In situations where you are concerned that another party may be influencing a signer's actions, one option is to ask if the other party can step out of the room so you can speak with the signer directly in private. If you have reason to believe the signer is unwilling, unaware or being coerced by someone else, it would be appropriate to refuse to perform the notarization. Please see this article for more information and guidelines:

Jan Rutkowski

19 Aug 2023

I am in Florida. What happens if you have a signer that is visually impaired receives the documents from the sender (let's say the sender sent the documents to them as a pdf file). Can the signer open the file as a pdf and then hit read aloud and listen to it? Then when the signer contacts the notary and the notary asks if they are aware of what is stated in the documents and they tell you that as a pdf it was read a loud by the computer and they agree to sign the document. Can you still notarize the document?

National Notary Association

24 Aug 2023

Hello. No, please see this Hotline Tip for more information about Florida requirements:

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