Lehighton's Deaf Welcome Foundation is in the running to bring its Blue Ridge cable television Equal Access Sign Language program to Oprah's "O" Network.
"Oprah is looking for a new TV star," said Theressa Du Bois, founder of the Deaf Welcome Foundation and the host and producer of Equal Access Sign Language TV. The Foundation is in its third year of producing the Hometown Video Award-winning show that brings a sign language component to the traditional talk show format.
The Deaf Welcome Foundation was created to make the deaf welcome in all activities. They produce Sign Language television to provide news, sports, education and entertainment for people who communicate using sign language.
"Oprah is looking for a TV star and I would be glad to represent Lehighton, PA," Du Bois said.
To see an audition video, go online to: myown.oprah.com/audition. In the Browse Auditions box, type: "deaf: to get to Theressa Du Bois' Audition. Then view and vote. "You can vote a hundred times, a thousand times, a million times," said Du Bois. "Click as any times as you like. Leave a message if you like."
People have left messages such as: "I love your passion for Deaf Welcome Television. I pray that the world will see your vision for the endless possibilities of Celebrating Deaf Culture with the hearing world.
Du Bois founded the 501-C3 charity, Deaf Welcome Foundation, in New York to make deaf people welcome in the community. The Foundation purchased the former B&B Auto Parts building at auction in 2008, and converted it to include: a theater, classroom, exercise room, art gallery, communications room, and a TV show set where Equal Access Sign Language is produced. The show is on Blue Ridge Cable TV, Channel 13 on Thursdays at 9:00 a.m.
Du Bois said when she was a child, her family moved to New York to flee prejudice in her birth state of North Carolina. She finds it ironic, now that she is fighting the lack of equal access for the deaf.
Her introduction to the deaf community came in her mid-twenties-one day in church. "A woman came up to me in church and asked me if I would learn sign language so she would understand the service." Du Bois explained. "Her husband did not want her to go two hours on the New York City subways to get to a deaf church when there were plenty of churches right near by."
"I couldn't believe she was talking to me," Du Bois said. "I turned around to see if she was talking to someone behind me. Why was she asking me to learn sign language? We were in church, so I felt that I should give it a try."
Du Bois located a woman who was leading a deaf ministry in her church, and arranged to study with her. "It was not a sign language class," she said. "This was a class to teach interpreters the best way to translate Psalm 110 verse 1. They were way over my head."
But as the minister was teaching the main portion of her class, she would look over at Du Bois and work on signs for the alphabet, "A, B, C, D… Got that? E, F, G."
"As I signed things, I acted and watched for feedback," she said. "Basically, I was doing Pictionary in front of the church."
In six months, Du Bois was teaching the Bible to 22 deaf parishioners each week. "I was teaching old, young, black, white, rich, poor," she said. "No one turned me down to learn the Bible."
As Du Bois continued to sign, she began to notice that the deaf were unaware of what was going on in the world. While most people gained their information from radio and television, the audio streams of the media were unavailable to the deaf.
"There is too much they are missing," she said. "The deaf are segregated from society. Something needed to be done, so I formed the Deaf Welcome Foundation to make deaf welcome in the community.
Du Bois was introduced to video when a producer who had become deaf ask her to translate on two episodes she was producing. While on the production, she was told, "You have to be in front of the camera because we've been ignoring the deaf our whole life. We were watching you signing. If you get in front of a camera, you can tell us what the deaf want and need."
In 2005, the producer asked Du Bois to present a pilot called "Miracles." A second producer saw it and offered her her own show. The first year, it won an award."
"The talk show format is in the style of Oprah except," said Du Bois, "when they voice, I sign, when they sign, I voice."
If Equal Access Sign Language television is selected by the "O" Network, Du Bois would follow her existing format, except bumped up a bit with national and international guests.
How does she feel about the Oprah opportunity? "I feel it's a Godsend," Du Bois said. "We are ready for it now. We weren't ready for it before.
"Once I'm on the 'O' Network, I can donate funds back to the charity."
Vote early, the contest ends July 3, and often at: http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&respons...
Donations can be sent to: Deaf Welcome Foundation, P.O. Box 124 Lehighton, 18235.