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What does it mean when you see "vp," "TTY," or "VRS" after a phone number?   For example:  (916) 555-1234 /vp



If you see a  "vp" after a phone number, it means that number is for "video phone" use.

The letters "VRS" stand for "Video Relay Service." A "VRS" provides video interpreting between Deaf and Hearing people. Either person could initiate the process by calling the VRS and providing the number of the person they want to call.

For example suppose a Hearing person wanted to call a Deaf person. The could call the VRS center and they would call the Deaf person's video phone and would relay the information back and forth by signing to the Deaf person and speaking to the Hearing person.

The "TTY" indication after a phone number means that there is a TTY in use at that number. A TTY is a teletypewriter or "teletype." This is an electronic device (or formerly a machine) that converts keystrokes into beeps that travel over phone lines. On the other end of the line is another TTY that converts the beeps into typed output. In the "old days" you'd need a wheelbarrow to carry a TTY around. As time went on TTY's became smaller and more electronic. For a while people started calling them TDDs. The acronym TDD stands for Telecommunication Device for the Deaf.  TTY's are rare these days having been since most Deaf have mobile phone capable of texting and/or video-calling.

teletypewriter (TTY)For you "history buffs."
(No need to read this unless you want to know more about TTY's.)

You may occasionally still see the term TTY or TDD being used in the Deaf World.
Of the two terms, TTY is/was more commonly used within the Deaf World but you would often see TDD used in Hearing literature (particularly governmental literature).  TTY's were very common in Deaf people's houses prior to the proliferation of smart phones and video phones. See the email (below) and you'll note that as early as 2003 many of us Deaf people were "selling off" our TTY's.  I'm a pack rat so I probably still have mine in a box somewhere but I think the last time I used it was around 2008 or so.

If you look hard enough, you might see the acronym TT  floating around in some government literature.  This term stands for "text telephone."    That idea (to use "TT" as the name) didn't catch on in the Deaf community.  "TT" looks a bit too much like the sign for "toilet" and feels weird on the hand. So we just kept our familiar "Y" on the end of "TT" and that was that.  So, don't use TT.  Stick with the term TTY.

If you should ever have the need to communicate on a TTY you do not use punctuation -- or at least don't use "Hearing" punctuation--like periods and commas.  Instead of a question mark use the letter Q.  Don't worry about capitalizing certain letters or words.  TTYs generally just use all capitals.

If you used a TTY for any substantial length of time in the Deaf community you got used to seeing and using abbreviations in your typed conversations.   For example, "HOW R U Q" meant "How are you?"  This is now very common in the Hearing World, but we Deaf used to do it many years before Hearing people got into the act.

Type "GA" when you want the other person to know it is her turn to type.  GA means "go ahead" as in "go ahead, it's your turn to type."

Type "GA to SK" when you are pretty much ready to end the conversation.

"SK means "stop keying."

For example if I were having a conversation on a TTY and I typed GA it would
mean it is your turn to talk. If I typed "GA to SK" it would mean "I'm ready to quit." You would type a few parting remarks and type a single SK.  Then I would type a double "SK SK," indicating I'm all done.  Then we would both hang up.

In a message dated 8/2/2003 2:38:08 AM Central Daylight Time, Scott Mather writes:

Greetings Doc!
Hey! I just bought a TTY on Ebay. The phone company is going to have a second line hooked up by Thursday so I can leave it on permanently for messages, etc.  It's a good one I think. A refurbished Ultratec Superscript ASCII 4420. Normally around $250 to $300 for a refurb, I got it for $76. (Ha!)

Hope this one works. Another one I got off Ebay shorted out the first time I tried to use it. :(
You think I'd learn.

Except........this one I just bought? The guy lives in Portland. I'm going to go pick it up. This means accountability!!! He has more, too, so if this one goes south, it's replacement time...


Hi Scott,
That is neat about you buying a TTY. I hope you have better luck with this one than your previous one.
My wife and I hardly use our TTYs any more.
People just email or instant message me.
When she needs to make a call she just uses one of the online internet TTY services.
Are you familiar with online relay?
Check out:  (That link and service have gone the way of the dinosaur.)
Dr. Bill

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