August 23, 2021

Trust no one when signing a contract

Contracts can be overwhelming or even intimidating. There are terms you probably don’t know, clauses that you don’t understand and sections you may disagree with. Despite this, many people wouldn’t consider asking a business to change a standard contract or service agreement. Whether you are living with disability searching for NDIS funded services, or any person entering into a contractual agreement, it’s essential to consider what you’re signing.

Image description: Jono in his wheelchair signing a contract. He is wearing a white top that says 'thinking'.


People expect that most contracts are “take it or leave it”. The reality is that many companies are open to making reasonable adjustments. People are unique, and customising contracts is a way to advocate for the differences in our needs.

I’ve found that it is possible to make amendments and additions to contracts by request. A few years ago, I decided to hire a support coordinator. The person I was interested in hiring was employed by an organisation that represents many other support coordinators. When it came time to sign their user agreement, I requested the support coordinator I wanted. In response, I was asked to sign their agreement first and work out the details later. Unsatisfied with this response, I wrote to them and asked for two additions to the contract. Firstly, I asked to be assigned the specific support coordinator. Secondly, I wanted the ability to leave their service without penalty if she was no longer available.

It was essential to me that the organisation agreed to these terms. Had they not accepted, I knew I wouldn’t be moving forward with them. It’s important to note that organisational contracts protect the organisation first and foremost, so it’s crucial to campaign for your needs during these arrangements. Thankfully, the organisation was happy to agree to the additional terms, and they added the terms to a new copy of the contract for me to sign.

If you’re signing a new agreement, read the document carefully. Don’t rely on someone’s word or presume it’s the same as previous contracts. If you’re feeling pressure to sign a document, tell them you’ll take it home to read over and think about it. By checking the details thoroughly, you may find something that concerns you, which needs further discussions or amendments.

To request a change in the contract, do it in writing. In your email or letter, politely explain which parts of the agreement you’d like amended. If the contract has headings or numbered paragraphs, reference which section you want to change. If they’re happy to oblige, they may write you a new contract or annotate the original contract and ask you to sign off on the changes.  

Sometimes businesses aren’t willing to change their service agreements for an individual. It may be because the request is beyond their capacity or is too high a cost to the business. More often than not, the person answering your query does not have the authority to make changes, and it has to undergo a bureaucratic process. In these cases, it’s up to you to decide how far you’re willing to go. Sometimes all it takes is asking for a manager to check your request to get approval. Other times, it doesn’t matter how high you take your request; they don’t make exceptions. If the company remains unwilling to negotiate, I always explore other options.

Ultimately, people are unique. We have different goals, needs and preferences. So it only makes sense that these be reflected in our service contracts. Most successful businesses know this and are happy to help. Don’t be afraid to ask and put your needs first. Someone needs to look out for you. Let that someone be you.

Let me know below what you look for in a contract.

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