Deaf, Hard of Hearing Notary Guide

deaf hard of hearing notary guideDeaf, Hard of Hearing Notary Guide

A notary may occasionally encounter a customer who is deaf or hard of hearing. According to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) website, the words deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) are preferred. The previously used phrase hearing impaired is now viewed negatively by many people.  The word Deaf, with a capital D, implies a person who understands American Sign Language (ASL).

Most organizations of the deaf use the term “deaf and hard of hearing.”  Show respect for people by refusing to use outdated or offensive terms. When in doubt, ask the person how they identify themselves.

Only a few states have passed laws establishing guidelines for providing notary services for disabled persons. The subject may not be included in notary training classes. So, the notary may not know what procedure to follow. A few states describe procedures for notarizing for a blind signer, such as reading the document aloud. No states describe procedures for notarizing for a deaf signer.

American Sign Language alphabetAccommodation of Physical Disabilities

Colorado notary law CRS 12-55-110.5, Accommodation of Physical Disabilities, states:

A notary public may use signals or electronic or mechanical means to take an acknowledgment from, administer an oath or affirmation to, or otherwise communicate with any individual in the presence of such notary public when it appears that such individual is unable to communicate verbally or in writing.

So, if a deaf person is not able to communicate verbally or in writing, a notary may use signals, such as sign language, to communicate. The notary must know sign language and cannot use a sign language interpreter.

When administering a notary ceremony, oath or affirmation for witness testimony or an oath of office to a deaf person, it is recommended to write the wording, oath or affirmation on paper and have it signed and notarized.

Make a note in the notary journal entry about any auxiliary aids, services, sign language interpreter or other accommodations made to serve a person with a disability.

Deaf or Hard of Hearing Demographics

About 8.6% of the US population is deaf or hard of hearing, deaf 0.9%, hard of hearing 7.7%
Causes of deafness and hearing loss: noise 33.7%; age 28%; infection or injury 17.1%; present from birth 4.4%
Noise-induced hearing loss from a noisy work environment is the most common occupational injury.
Most hard of hearing people do not use sign language or lip reading.
Age-related hearing loss often begins around age 45-50, 55% of people over 60 are deaf or hard of hearing.
The hearing aid is the second most widely used assistive technology equipment, after the walking cane. More than 70% of hearing aid users are over 64.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 covers discrimination by state and local government programs, services and activities. For example, the government must provide a means of effective communication, such as a sign language interpreter, if needed by a signing deaf person, whether a citizen or an employee.

Title III of ADA requires businesses (for profit and non-profit) that are places of public accommodation to provide equal opportunity using effective communication to access services and prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Definition: A person is “disabled” if he or she has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking and several other activities.

Auxiliary Aids

Auxiliary aids and services are accommodations used to provide effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. They include, but are not limited to, the use of:

VRS video interpreter signgestures or visual aids to supplement oral communication;
use of a Qualified Interpreter;
use of a notepad and pen or pencil to exchange written notes;
use of a computer or typewriter;
use of an assistive listening system or device to amplify sound; or
use of a teletypewriter (TTY), or videophone (video relay service or VRS).

Auxiliary aids and services must be provided unless the entity can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, or would constitute an undue burden (significant difficulty or expense). Undue burden is measured by the overall financial impact on the whole entity, not based on a single transaction. No surcharge is allowed for the expense of providing auxiliary aids, services or accommodations.

Disabled Access Tax Credit for Business

Small businesses that earned $1 million or less or had no more than 30 full time employees in the previous year may claim a tax credit up to $5,000 annually on Form 8826, Disabled Access Credit for 50% of eligible access expenditures paid over $250 to comply with ADA requirements, including auxiliary aids and sign language interpreters.

Deaf or Hard of Hearing Definition

Definition: Colorado CRS 13-90-202(6) Deaf or Hard of Hearing– means a person who has a functional hearing loss of sufficient severity to prevent aural comprehension, even with the assistance of hearing aids.

Effective Communication Definition

Definition: CRS 13-90-202(7) Effective communication– means those methods of communication that are individualized and culturally appropriate to a person who is deaf or hard of hearing so that he or she can easily understand all auditory information.

Qualified Interpreter Definition

sign language interpreter

Definition: CRS 13-90-202(8) Qualified Interpreter– means a person who has a valid certification of competency accepted by the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) and includes, but is not limited to, oral interpreters, sign language interpreters, and intermediary interpreters.

Service Animals

CRS 24-34-803 Rights of individuals with service animals– A qualified individual with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a service animal individually trained for that individual without being required to pay an extra charge for the service animal.

Pikes Peak Public Library Deaf Resources

Pikes Peak Public Library has several assistive resources available for patrons. Equipment varies by library branch.

Sorenson Video Relay Service (VRS): a videophone allows people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired to communicate over high-speed Internet using American Sign Language (ASL). An ASL interpreter relays the phone call verbally to a hearing person. It replaces TTY or Text Telephone. VRS is paid for by the government’s Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) fund.
VRS-equipped laptops.
Room equipped with a hearing loop to assist individuals with hearing loss. Switch hearing device to T-Coil setting, or ask for a portable receiver.
ASL interpreters are available for library-sponsored programs with at least 7 days advance notice.

Deaf Signer Notary Guide

This list of notary related sentences is an auxiliary aid to help communicate with a deaf or hard of hearing person. The notary can point to a specific line number to express that sentence, without having to write it on paper or type on a computer keyboard.

1. Hello. My name is [John]. I am a Notary.
2. I do not know sign language. or, I know sign language.
3. What is your name?
4. Please print your [name] on this paper or computer.
5. May I please see your identification?
6. What type of document is this?
7. Please print the document title on this paper or computer.
8. Have you read this document?
9. Please fill in this blank space.
10. Do you understand the purpose of this document?
11. Are you signing this document voluntarily?
12. Do you acknowledge that this is your signature?
13. Do you swear or affirm that these statements are true and correct?
14. Please sign your name here.
15. My fee is [number] dollars.
16. Yes
17. No
18. I do not understand.
19. I do not know.
20. Please repeat.
21. Please speak/sign slowly.
22. Thank you.
23. Nice to meet you.
24. Here is my business card.
25. Have a nice day.
26. Good bye.
27. Here is the name and phone number/email of a notary that knows sign language.
28. I am not a notario publico.
29. I am not an attorney.
30. I do not give legal advice.
31. I am not a civil law notary.

Notaries should serve all of the public and follow federal and state laws to serve the deaf and hard of hearing.

Disclaimer: Laws change and vary by state. This article is not legal advice. Contact an attorney for legal advice.

1. R. Jason Richards, Disabilities in Notary Law and Practice, 32 John Marshall Law Review 1033 (1999)
2. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title III for businesses
3. Legal Interpreters List, Certified and Qualified, Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH), Legal Auxiliary Services (LAS)
4. CCDHH LAS court interpreter fee schedule: Status I-Certified CART Provider $80/hour, Status I-SC:L (Specialist Certificate: Legal) $60/hour, CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreter) $60/hour, Status II-RID Certified plus legal training and supervised experience $53/hour. Two-hour minimum. Extra time and travel time paid in nearest 15-minute increments.
5. Sign Language Interpreters are nationally certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).
6. Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) providers are certified by the National Court Reporter Association (NCRA).
7. Colorado Springs native son and Hollywood movie actor Lon Chaney had two deaf parents.
8. Notary Manual, Dutch Colony Cape of Good Hope, 1844, describes procedures for notarizing will for deaf, mute, blind. In making the will of a deaf person, the notary should communicate with him by interrogatories put in writing.

Image Credits
1. Ear with diagonal line: International symbol for deaf/hard of hearing by State of Rhode Island [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2. inverted hands gesture: symbol for sign language interpreter by State of Rhode Island [Public domain]
3. American Sign Language alphabet by Connecticut; Connecticut. General Assembly [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
4. VRS sign by SignVideo, London, U.K. [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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