New Bill would Help Those with Spinal Cord Injuries

It's not the kind of unassisted step you and I are used to taking, but Sarah Anderson is walking down the halls of the Capitol Building in Sacramento while strapped into a robotic exoskeleton made by Ekso Bionics of Richmond.

They're the kind of steps 650,000 paralyzed Californians like Anderson never thought they'd ever be able to make again.

Car crashes are the number one creator of paralysis in this country.

A crash caused by a drunk driver is what stole this El Sobrante woman's ability to walk.

With Ekso, she has it back.

"It's something that once it's taken away from you, you just feel like you lose a part of yourself. So to be able to get that back, it's monumental, said Anderson. “It's the greatest gift a person could ever have - to feel whole again."

Anderson has become a test pilot of sorts and ambassador for Ekso.

To give more people that feeling, Ekso founders have teamed up with Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski to push AB 1657, which was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday night with a 4-2 vote.

The bill would tack $1 onto current fines for all moving violations to fund the kind of research that created the Ekso.

"Take a stand so that one day everybody can," said Roman Reed.

Reed was paralyzed in 1994 while playing football at Chabot College

He is the namesake of the spinal cord injury fund the new monies would resupply.

Once at $89 million in state and federal matching funds, the fund's account is dry.

With that, some say the chance for innovation is in danger.

"You've cut the funding to the universities so you can't even borrow money from another pot. 

So, it's either now or never," Assemblyman Bob Wiecowski said Monday.

He believes it's a chance for thousands to push their wheelchairs aside for good and walk into the future in a new way.

Eight states currently tack on an extra fee to fines for moving violations to help fund research into spinal cord injuries.

In New York, that extra amount is $15 dollars.

There are 3.4 million convictions in California annually, so that could mean $3.4 million every year for research.