LivAbility Magazine

Edition 20 | Spring 2020

A man, Omeo user and dealer Michael Neher sits in his sky blue Omeo wheelchair in front of a bridge in Downtown Tempe. Michael, in his late 40s to early 50s wears a plaid button up shirt and khaki shorts and blue Nike tennis shoes. He wears a glove on his right hand and is holding his hand down by the wheel of the chair.
Photo by Jerry O’Connor

A redefining mobility device

By Sarah Farrell

Where can your personal mobility device take you next?

With the Omeo, that answer is quite a bit different than you would think.

The Omeo is a self-balancing personal mobility device that was developed by a creator, Kevin Halsall, in New Zealand. The lithium ion-powered device uses gyroscopes, a series of sensors that coordinate to maintain balance and position to help stay upright no matter what terrain. Gyroscope technology is used in other devices like hoverboards and Onewheel boards.

So how does movement in a device like this work?

You can transfer into the chair with the stabilizing legs, which act as a kickstand, down. Once seated, you can move forward or backward by shifting your weight in the seat. For side-to-side movement, you can either choose to use the traditional joystick or switch the Omeo into seat-steering mode.

Michael Neher is both an Omeo user and dealer in Oregon. He has a C6-C7 spinal cord injury and prior to the Omeo, he used a manual chair.

“In the beginning, it took a little bit of getting used to because it’s obviously different than my manual chair,” he said. “I am now actually more comfortable in this than my manual chair because my manual chair made my back hurt.”

Even without core muscles, Neher is easily able to maneuver the Omeo. The device allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the seat so that even if you have a limited range of motion, you can still take advantage of the full capabilities. The steering in the Omeo is very intuitive to your body movements.

Neher does not use the device when he drives a vehicle though because there is no option to drive from the Omeo yet. There is, however, an option to purchase off-road tires for the Omeo. It is easy to unscrew the original tires, take them off and transition into tires that will allow you to go over rough terrain like gravel and sand. “I can’t emphasize that enough, how easy it is to go,” Neher said.

While the device, similar to its power wheelchair counterparts, is pricey–approximately $29,900–it is making its way onto the U.S. market. Approximately 30 Omeo mobility devices have been delivered as of Spring 2020.

So where can your personal mobility device take you? The answer could very well be more than a traditional power wheelchair.

Close up shot of him in front of a bridge in Downtown Tempe. Michael, in his late 40s to early 50s wears a plaid button up shirt.

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Sarah Farrell

Sarah Farrell

Sarah Farrell is a Texas native, digital journalist, avid hiker and tennis fanatic. She recently finished her master’s in sports journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Read more by Sarah Farrell.