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Notary Tip: How To Be Prepared For Signers With Special Needs

Notarizing for signers with special needs

Over the years, I have notarized many documents for signers with physical impairments and other special needs. Those experiences taught me that I need more than my Notary stamp and journal to accommodate the requirements of the notarization.

It’s always important to be familiar with your state’s requirements and guidelines for dealing with special needs signers. But without a few additional tools, the notarization might come to a halt. Here are a few items I keep with me to be prepared for signers with different needs.

Visually Impaired Signers

One of the more common challenges with visually impaired signers is helping them to sign in the right space — on the document and in your journal. A signature guide card will help with this. This card is about the size of a business card and has the bottom third open to expose the document signature area. This creates a small lip around the space for the signature that the signer can feel with their pen to help them stay in the space without assistance. A signature card can typically be obtained from a support group for the visually impaired.

Physically Impaired Signers

Those who cannot sign their names due to physical impairment may sign with a mark instead. For the Notary, the most important tool in these situations is your state Notary handbook or similar reference. Having the contact information for the NNA Hotline also can be very helpful. That’s because the requirements for signature by mark can be very specific. For example, how many witnesses are required to observe the signing? Are the witnesses required to sign the document or the Notary’s journal? What are the requirements for noting the signature by mark on the document? Is a signature by proxy allowed for signers who cannot make a mark?

If the signer is physically unable to make a mark with a pen, they still may use a thumbprint or fingerprint as their mark. So it would be helpful to have an ink pad ready.

If your state requires you to include a statement about how the document was signed, you can generally meet that requirement by purchasing a stamp with the necessary wording.

Hearing Impaired

In notarizing for the hearing impaired, it is important to confirm I can communicate directly with my signer. If an interpreter is required then I am not the Notary for them. However, if they can write notes to me, then I can notarize their signature. So it’s a good idea to always carry a pen and notepad with you.

Elderly

Many seniors do not need extra accommodation just because they are older. But I keep these tools in my bag just in case they do:

  • Extra-large-barrel pens and other ergonomically designed writing instruments, such as Penagains;
  • Over-the-counter reading classes 2.0 and 3.0; and
  • A clipboard, for those times when your signer cannot sit at a desk or table.

You may not need these tools when dealing with signers with special needs. But if you have them available, you’ll be able to handle most situations that arise.

Laura Biewer owns At Your Service Mobile Notary in Modesto, California. She also teaches seminars for the National Notary Association and is a regular presenter at the NNA’s annual Conferences.

 

2 Comments

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Julie Brickley

31 Aug 2016

Good advice as always, Laura. One more tip for physically impaired is to check you state laws regarding Signature by Proxy. I have had signers who are physically paralyzed and unable to even make a mark and being familiar with my state's laws enable me to continue on with the notarization.

Laura

14 Sep 2016

Julie, thank you, and yes in CA we can do that as well but for POAs only. Every state seems to have a different take on signature by proxy so the notary needs to be sure to check first to see if their state provides for this accommodation. A good place to check is the Hotline, they have the resources to help.

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