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How To Notarize For A Visually Impaired Signer

new-blind-signer-resized.jpgUpdated 4-12-21. 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, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Wyoming 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. 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.



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.

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