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Visually impaired children get hands-on with heavy equipment

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Posted at 5:55 PM, Jul 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-27 19:55:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY – A group of 25 children who are blind or visually impaired had access to some heavy equipment Saturday, including cranes, bulldozers, and trucks the size of houses.

The children were at Komatsu Equipment in Salt Lake City, where the company set up the event to allow the children to get up close and personal with the massive equipment.

Cody Phelps was one of the children at the event.

“When you grow up visually impaired, you’re not supposed to be around this kind of stuff," he said. "So today, you go have fun, and you're like, 'Yes!'”

Julie Ledford, president of the Utah Parents of Blind Children, said the experience allowed the children to touch and understand things they normally wouldn’t be able to interact with.

“We have the opportunity to bring our kids here so they can see tactually what maybe the rest of the world, the sighted world, takes for granted,” she said.

Joel Cook is the vice president of sales at Komatsu Equipment, and he said there was a practical application to the day’s events.

“The back-up alarm, the 'beep-beep' that we hear—they need to know and recognize that means there's probably heavy equipment or a truck,” he said.

Cook said he hopes the object lessons help kids stay safe.

“It's very special that I could put a hard hat in front of these little kids and let them hear and clank it to see how it's safe, or a steel toed boot,” he said. “Even though they can't see a fluorescent vest, but they can feel it and understand being visible.”

Ledford said she was grateful to Komatsu for hosting them.

“This is priceless,” she said. “This is something my kids would never have been able to do.”

Cook said he was glad to help.

“No pun intended, it's a good eye opener for me,” he said. “[I’m] Pretty blessed to be able to touch and see each day.”