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Stuff Deaf People Like #6: VP Numbers

Deaf people often possess a painstakingly curated collection of videophone numbers. This is more a reflection of the highly fragmented video relay service (VRS) industry and its practices than any predilection towards numerical hoarding on the Deaf person’s part.

The FCC requires that any person who uses a videophone must register for a telephone number compliant with the North American Numbering Plan which gives us (xxx) xxx-xxxx. And that number happens to be tied to the videophone device itself (although some VRS services now support transferring numbers like hearing people do with cell phones).

Deaf people who like to have several videophones in their arsenal of communication must, of course, have a phone number for each. To make matters worse, Sorenson once provided “fake” 866 numbers to each videophone (so that means tens of thousands videophones) and then followed up by providing more “real” phone numbers with area codes. So not only does every videophone have its own telephone number, some have two!

Moreover, when Deaf people switch videophone providers, there is no such thing as “closing the account” like you do when you move from one city to another city and have to cancel your old landline phone number. You just move on, leaving the old videophone account open, because, you never know, you might go back. And it doesn’t cost anything one way or another.

Videophone numbers are not to be confused with text/mobile numbers, of which a great many Deaf people also possess. So when collecting digits from a Deaf person, always make sure you know what the number’s for. Otherwise you might end up talking to a video relay interpreter, or to an answering machine to leave a message the Deaf person will never hear.

What happens to a message left unheard? Does it dry up like a raisin under the sun?

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