Austin Whitney walked on Saturday. No faith healers were involved.....Yet when the paralyzed 22-year-old rose from his wheelchair and stepped across the UC Berkeley commencement stage to shake Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's hand, the crowd of 15,000 at Edwards Stadium went wild with cheers, as if witnessing a miracle.....In a way, they were.
"Ask anybody in a wheelchair; ask what it would mean to once again stand and shake someone's hand while facing them at eye level," Whitney said in anticipation of his momentous day. "It will be surreal, like a dream."
Or like putting on the Iron Man suit and acquiring super powers. A team of UC Berkeley mechanical engineers - four doctoral students led by Professor Homayoon Kazerooni - have been developing a computerized body brace called an exoskeleton they believe will be good enough to transform thousands of wheelchair users into walking people in a couple of years, and for an affordable price.