By Samantha Johnson
Alberta Newspaper Group
Created in New Zealand, The Omeo all-wheel drive wheelchair arrived in Canada earlier this year and Omeo Technology Canada is taking it across the country.
The OMEO allows users to go off-road and can handle terrains such as grass, gravel, hiking trails and sandy beaches.
The chair features active seat control, which enables the user to control it hands free. It is also perfect for navigating in tight areas as the chair has close turning ability.
Both Canadian Omeo agents, Craig Lenz and Martin Maurer, are wheelchair users. They are passionate about bringing the Omeo to Canada to enable those with disabilities more freedom.
A resident of Bow Island for the past thirteen years, Rebecca Hintz, has been in communication with the makers of the Omeo for over 18 months. Rebecca calls the chair “a Segway you can sit on.” She is passionate about adaptive equipment and believes it’s necessary to bring new technology into Canada.
“I got the call to let me know they (Craig and Martin) finally made it into Canada and were in Lethbridge,” said Rebecca, still cheerful despite the hectic planning schedule.
The struggle was to get the OMEO to meet the safety regulations of Canada. Originally called the Ogo, the creators managed to meet worldwide safety standards once they partnered with a larger company.
Rebecca’s youngest son, Reid, has Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congentia (AMC), a condition in which one or more joints are fixed permanently in the straight or bent position. Affected on all four limbs, Reid has undergone five surgeries since birth and the family has been to the Alberta Children’s Hospital 550 times.
Scheduled for his sixth surgery in September of this year, Reid will have to repeat kindergarten at St. Michael’s School as a result. The surgery will be 10-hours long and will focus on squaring his inverted shoulder blades, putting a plate in his dislocated hips, and working on his wrists, ankles and toes.
Presently, Reid has an electric wheelchair, which limits his mobility. In addition, the chair weighs 250 lbs. and becomes dead weight if the charge runs out – the chair can go 40 km on a single charge – and is unable to traverse off solid ground.
In contrast, the Omeo is much lighter, weighing in at 165 lbs. and able to travel 38 km on a single charge. Not quite as far, but the Omeo is easier to push than a standard electric wheelchair and will allow Reid to engage in activities he wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
To herald the arrival of the Omeo into the Medicine Hat area, an event was held on July 15 at Kin Coulee Park to showcase it. Participants were encouraged to try the chair out, each receiving a 15-minute time slot to put it through the paces and learn how to navigate using the active seat control.
Working with Trevor Eichelbaum of Adapt Mobility, who wants to see this product excel in Canada, he and Rebecca were pushed for time to get the demonstration event off the ground. The chair received Canadian approval this Spring and planning of the event was done in 24 hours.
Rebecca said social media was a big help in getting the word out and the Health Foundation has been supportive in putting together a press package. A podcast is available for those who are interested in learning more about the chair.
From Medicine Hat, the agents will continue onto Calgary before heading East across the country. For more information about the Omeo, visit http://www.omeotechnology.com or contact the Canadian agents: Lenz of Regina, Sask. at firstname.lastname@example.org (306)537-9640 or Maurer of Whitehorse, Yukon at email@example.com