The Thread—Making Your Mark

Sheryl Burgstahler

A DO-IT Mentor recently posed the following question within our Internet discussion forum. I will share with you some of the responses so that you can get the flavor of the many rich and informative conversations in our DO-IT community.

How do people, who physically have difficulty in using a pen, write their signatures when they pay by check or credit card? Are there any useful implements or alternative ways for them to do this?

DO-IT Mentor: Using a debit card is one alternative. However, writing a signature is still frequently asked for. I am not sure if we can escape from it completely. However, in my country, Japan, signatures are not common.

We use seals (stamps) instead. People who cannot write usually ask somebody else to stamp their seal for them and the result is the same whomever does it. Keeping their own seal is a good proof.

I personally hope that writing signatures will become much simpler using technology so that in the near future people can do this independently. Electronic money has been a big theme in recent years, with the big question being "how does one keep personal information secure?" Can I ask how this signature challenge is coped with in the US today?

DO-IT Mentor with cerebral palsy: Years ago I "wrote" my signature on the computer using CorelDRAW™ and my trackball, and then I had a stamp made of it. Maybe 5% of the time people question the legality of it, but I have not had too much trouble. When I don't have my stamp, I have someone print my name and then they sign next to it with the word "by" followed by his/her name.

DO-IT Mentor who has no functional use of hands: Something I should mention about a signature stamp is that the person using it should have it notarized to make it technically legal.

'94 DO-IT Scholar with limited functional use of hands: Speaking of a signature stamp, I have one myself, and I love it. One thing that my bank asked of me is to give them a copy of the stamped signature, which is just for the safety for both me and them.

'94 DO-IT Scholar with limited functional use of hands: Also I forgot to mention that my bank only accepted a signature stamp with my actual signature. It could not be generated from a computer for security reasons.

'99 DO-IT Scholar with limited functional use of hands: I can hold a pen for writing. It looks like a little child's writing. I also had a stamp made, which can usually be done at any US office store.

DO-IT Mentor: I have a friend who is barely able to hold a pen. He just signs an "x" where his signature is supposed to be. As long as store employees see him do it, he hasn't had any problems.

DO-IT Mentor with visual impairment: One tool that can help, but is usually associated with vision loss, is a signature guide. It helps contain the signature in the correct position. It comes in paper, plastic, and metal and is inexpensive.

There are also pens that have a fatter and rougher grip. Examples/sources include:

'98 Scholar who is blind: Thanks for describing signature guides. I was going to comment on the signature guides but I was unsure how to describe them.

'95 Scholar who has limited use of hands: I sort of have the opposite problem. I often get the comment that I should get a stamp, but I am perfectly capable of signing my own signature. If businesses had their counters down at the level they are supposed to be, I wouldn't have a problem (or in some cases they don't have a counter at all, and expect you to sign in a windowsill with the metal window track right in the middle underneath the paper). I find it insulting when someone suggests I get a stamp, when the problem is their ridiculously high counters and not an "inability" on my part.

DO-IT Mentor with cerebral palsy: This reminds me of my grandfather who used his Chinese seal back in the 1940's in certain financial transactions and to issue certain military orders. He was a general in the Chinese Revolution.

I normally sign my own credit card slips by hand. I try to make it consistent, but I don't. I notice that others just scribble something that is illegible so it seems to be no big deal nowadays. However, if you are in an escrow office to buy or sell a house, you need your signature to be readable.

On the other hand, writing a check is a tad difficult for me. To solve this, I use home banking to write checks to my credit card and my cell phone. I find this technology very useful. Just the other day, my friend paid me on a bet that we made (I won). He authorized a check to be sent to me via Internet. I got it in two days. The good thing about this is that you don't need to:

  • write a check
  • put it in an envelope
  • place a 33 cent stamp
  • walk to the mailbox and put the flag up

Also, it is usually free if you have direct deposit. I recommend electronic banking to everyone.

'01 DO-IT Scholar with little functional use of hands: When I write, I hold a piece of light weight cardboard behind the paper, check, etc., as a hard surface.

'93 DO-IT Scholar who is blind: I am able to sign my name and hold a pen despite the fact that I am visually impaired. I always get the checks with the raised lines. The bottom line on the check acts as a landmark to help me know where to sign my name. When signing a form, I carry a signature card around with me. The person reading the form to me positions the card in the location where the signature is supposed to go.

'94 DO-IT Scholar with limited functional use of hands: For individuals who can't produce an actual pen written signature, would their thumbprint work on checks and other documents? I would be interested in knowing if this can be legally done.

DO-IT Mentor with limited functional use of hands: Well, I don't know about thumbprints, but I actually wrote my signature on my computer using my trackball. So, even though it was designed on a computer, it wasn't generated BY a computer. It's not something others could reproduce easily...heck, I can't even reproduce it!

'98 DO-IT Scholar who is blind: Can a blind person do this? Or is this a visual thing?

DO-IT Mentor with limited functional use of hands: Unfortunately, it's more of a visual thing.

DO-IT Mentor with limited functional use of hands: The fun part about having Cerebral Palsy is that all of my signatures are originals. The bad part is I can't seem to find an art museum interested in this fine original work. :-)

'98 Scholar with cerebral palsy: I agree. Everything affects your writing each day—your energy level, your spacticity, and the position of the paper. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad.

'96 Scholar who is blind: I scanned a copy of my signature that I wrote on paper into my computer and had a friend crop the excess white space off so it is as small as it can be. I can insert the picture into documents to sign things like letters.

DO-IT Mentor who originally posted question: Thank you very much for the information from all of you. Very informative! I saw here the power of the DO-IT mailing lists.