Signs of Inclusion

December 2022 View more

This local resource helps link the deaf culture and the hearing world

July’s opening of Deaf Welcome Studios with founder Theressa DuBois (fourth from left) and Aurora mayor Richard Irvin (fifth from left).
July’s opening of Deaf Welcome Studios with founder Theressa DuBois (fourth from left) and Aurora mayor Richard Irvin (fifth from left).

If you’re heading to Fox Valley Mall to do some holiday shopping, you may run across an unexpected tenant. Among the retail stores and restaurants, you’ll find Deaf Welcome Studios (195 Fox Valley Center Dr., Aurora), a new hub devoted to inclusion of the deaf.

Deaf Welcome Studios is the home of the Deaf Welcome Foundation, a nonprofit bridging the gap between the deaf community and the hearing world. Founded in 2004 by Theressa DuBois, the organization provides American Sign Language interpreters, video production services, and other resources that help businesses connect with the deaf and hard of hearing. “The Deaf Welcome Foundation is founded on the fact that when you provide people with opportunity and support, they can succeed,” DuBois says. “It’s such a privilege to be able to connect the deaf culture to people, businesses, and amenities that can enrich their lives.”

In addition, DuBois runs the Deaf Welcome TV Network (ILYTv) out of the mall location. Available on Roku and the Deaf Welcome TV mobile app, the network offers family-friendly programming that signers and nonsigners can enjoy together.

DuBois interviewing Holly Byrd Miller on the ‘Theressa DuBois Show.’
DuBois interviewing Holly Byrd Miller on the Theressa DuBois Show.

DuBois also hosts ILYTv’s Theressa DuBois Show, a talk show in both English and sign language. Nicknamed the “signing Oprah,” DuBois has interviewed artists such as Brian McKnight and Regina Bell. “Chicago is in trouble because we are bringing Hollywood to Aurora,” she muses. “We also plan to show off budding talent from the area.” The show is filmed at the studios twice a month in front of an audience. Tickets are available at

Deaf Welcome Studios is more than a media production facility. DuBois also hosts sign language classes, deaf movie nights, and social events there. “Vocational support, mentoring, and professional development are a large part of what I do when the cameras are off,” she explains. “There’s a lot going on, but it all centers around the entertainment and education space.”

And while a shopping center may seem like an unusual location, it is well suited for the nonprofit. “I never thought about being in the mall, but we’ve significantly increased our square footage and we get so much foot traffic,” DuBois says. “People can peek in the window and see what’s going on. When they come in, they say it doesn’t even feel like they are in the mall.”

Embracing her surroundings, DuBois works with retailers to incorporate sign language into their employee training and even provides free interpreters for deaf shoppers in the mall. “The atmosphere around here has been tremendous,” she says. “The personality of the people, the inquisitiveness, the support—it has all been amazing.”


Photos courtesy of Theressa DuBois