PIA Debuts Updated Program to Assist Visually and Hearing Impaired Students

Last week, the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) opened a modern facility where enhanced Braille transcription and closed caption services for written materials, music and digital products are produced by trained inmates at Folsom State Prison.

The event marked moving two existing disabled service programs from cramped, aging quarters at two prisons into a consolidated program in a building constructed by the CAL/PIA inmate carpentry pre-apprenticeship program.

An inmate transposes music (below), into Braille
using the computer, which can print out text the blind
can read to play music.

The California Assistive Technology Enterprise program produces Braille transcriptions of written materials and music, as well as post production Closed Captioning and E-books/Recording for blind and hearing impaired persons. This enhanced program is part of the CALPIA’s Digital Services Enterprise (DSE) which was previously housed at Mule Creek State Prison.

Both programs have been consolidated in an effort to increase efficiency and improve services to the disabled community while also providing greater training opportunities for inmates with an aptitude in these specialized services.

“I am pleased that CALPIA is leading the way in rehabilitative services by providing an opportunity for these inmates to learn valuable, cutting edge skills while assisting those who need it most – the disabled,” said Chuck Pattillo, General Manager for CALPIA.

The DSE merged with the Folsom Project for the Visually Impaired at the new facility. The facility, refurbished by inmates participating in CALPIA’s Carpentry pre-Apprenticeship program, will allow this program to expand its work with assistive technologies.

This consolidated program meets the unique needs of California’s K-8 disabled students by providing standardized assistive material through contracts with the California Department of Education, as well as providing individualized books and materials for school districts. This expansion will also assist blind and visually impaired students at CSU and UC campuses. Additionally, the program produces maps, signs, and documents for State agencies.

“Our goal in establishing this is to enhance and expand both accessibility and usability for the disabled community,” said Pattillo. “Accessibility and usability for any member of the disabled community go hand-in-hand.”

An inmate demonstrates hearing impaired
closed captioning for digital video.

Currently, there are eleven inmates employed by the expanded program. Space will allow for the potential expansion to twenty inmate employees. Inmates are certified in literary Braille, four are certified in math and science, and three are certified in music transcription. Following parole, certified inmates have numerous opportunities for work with CALPIA business partners or as contract workers.
CALPIA is a self-supporting state entity that receives all of its revenue from the sale of products and services. The rate of inmate return to prison among CALPIA participants is over 25 percent lower than the general prison population, a success attributed to the job skills that they receive by working in CALPIA business enterprises.

For more information, visit the CALPIA website at https://www.pia.ca.gov/

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