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November 23, 2014

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Blind man hears, feels his way to mechanic degree

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Greg Sorber / The Albuquerque Journal / AP

In this April 28, 2014, photo, Cliff Alderson of Alamagordo, N.M., loosens a bolt to let oil pour out during an oil change on a car. Alderson, who is blind, completed the two-year auto mechanic program at Dona Ana Community College. He earned his degree by listening and learning to feel his way around the vehicle, KOAT-TV reported.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A blind New Mexico man who recently earned an auto mechanics degree is looking for a job.

Clifford Alderson, 48, a graduate from a joint New Mexico State University-Dona Ana Community College program, earned his degree by listening and learning to feel his way around the vehicle, KOAT-TV reports.

Born with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that led to his blindness, Alderson got his on-the-job training at a small auto shop in Alamogordo and plans on making a career out of his talents.

His mother has the disease, as does his 15-year-old daughter, Lydia.

"When I graduated it didn't feel like I graduated. I felt like I was in a dream," said Alderson, who walks with a collapsible cane.

Damian Orchard, of All Makes Automotive, says, for the most part, he could just tell Alderson what needed to be done on a car and Alderson takes care of the rest.

"A good majority of (the repairs) I could turn Cliff loose, once I told him what we needed to do," Orchard said.

Orchard said among the repairs Alderson can tackle are brake jobs, shocks, water and power steering pumps, alternators, and changing hoses.

Joe Retana, a professor at the auto mechanics program, said Alderson is an enthusiastic person who never let any disability get in the way.

"He's very exciting and he's a go-getter," Retana said. "Nothing seems to stop him."

Alderson said he hopes he has inspired his daughter by graduating.

Alderson has not landed a full-time job but says he's optimistic.

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