How Should a Disabled Client Sign a Document ?
The Group was asked to comment on a government consultation on how a client who is disabled by a physical impairment should sign a document. By definition, he/she has mental capacity, and accordingly the rules relating to the execution of documents to which an individual who is a "patient" is a party do not apply. A client may have some physical impairment which makes it impossible for him/her to sign, or affix a
mark. In such a case, someone must sign for him/her.
It is understood that, if the document is an application for public funding, the government would be prepared for the solicitor acting for the applicant to sign the document, adding:- " I confirm that due to my client’s disabilities he/she is physically unable to sign." The Group approved this suggestion, but added
1. Using a mark to sign. At common law, anyone who cannot sign their name is allowed to use a mark. Common law requires that, noted by the mark, should be the words: "the mark of A.B".
2. Many, if not most, visually impaired clients can sign their name. If the signature needs to be witnessed, the witness adds to the testimonium clause "I having first distinctly and audibly read over to him/her (being blind) the contents of this document when he/she confirmed that he/she fully understood its nature and terms." The note just quoted might be rather too long for insertion into government application forms for public funding.
It is, of course, crucially important that a visually impaired person should know what he/she is signing. Accordingly, where a signature on a document does not need to be witnessed, it should be standard practice that, before a visually impaired client affixes his/her mark or signature, it should be read to him/her, and confirmation that it is understood should be obtained.