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How To Notarize For A Visually Impaired Signer

Updated 3-29-22. 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, 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.

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.

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