The Genny Urban electric wheelchair is very different to many wheelchairs on the market. The Genny uses Segway technology to enable the user to get about on two wheels. A class 2 wheelchair, does it revolutionise the users life? We’ve taken a look for you.
Introduction to the Genny Urban
We were loaned a Genny Urban 2 for a weekend. The wheelchair, available in a reasonable range of colours, came with lights (an optional extra) a Tarta backrest and black rimmed wheels. Looking smart despite the good use it has already seen (according to the odometer, it has done 120 miles), the Genny gives an air of being from the future. The Genny is the only device in the world to officially own the Segway license to utilise this technology, which means that the wheelchair won’t tip over whilst powered. I tried and failed… and I might have really tried.
The wheelchair has an information panel, a control panel and handle bars. The control panel is a simple affair – two buttons to raise or lower the parking support stands and a button to turn the lights on or off. The information panel has 4 buttons – a power button, a speed limiter button (to limit to 4 or 8mph), an information cycle button and a locking function should you need to leave the wheelchair for a short period of time. It also displays the current speed mode, the speed (or distance covered, time, date, total miles etc) and the mode of the wheelchair – awake or asleep. It can also display error messages – something we didn’t encounter this weekend.
You might be forgiven for thinking you can jump on and go – not so with the Genny. The Genny was delivered by Mick, a friendly and helpful sales technician. Mick didn’t just arrive with the wheelchair – he was armed with a disclaimer, check list for how to use the functions of the wheelchair, a couple of pages of “don’t do” and space for several signatures. Mick was clear that we were to enjoy the wheelchair and the functions it offers though – the paper work is purely to ensure we know what we should or shouldn’t attempt to do with the wheelchair.
Following an hours training, including how to stop in an emergency and when to know if the wheelchair is alerting you to the need of taking more control, Mick left us with a useful piece of advice:
You’ll get your confidence in a couple of days – just watch out then because something will happen that will remind you that you’ve still got a lot to learn.
You may want to remember that as you read on.
Out and about
We took the Genny out quite a bit. It’s not an indoor-by-default wheelchair (although it manages well indoors or out). It prefers to be active and doing stuff, regardless of taking out the trash or getting the shopping in.
Whizzing around the supermarket became a breeze. The Genny’s height means that I was able to easily reach most shelves. I could scoot through the mass of trolleys and lead my child army to the checkouts via the fruit, veg and cheese aisles. The Tarta backrest paid dividends in the store, as I could move about to get things from shelves that were quite low or needed me to be closer – being sideways sometimes meant that it was easier to hold my balance and not risk a head on collision with the Weetabix. One huge benefit was the turning circle – I could spin on the spot like a ballerina without fearing for a pyramid of baked bean tins.
Heading to town
The bus wasn’t a problem – drivers were quite taken with the wheelchair and impressed that it moved easily on board. We have First Buses locally and all the drivers offered the ramp, making sure I was safe before moving off and able to get off safely.
Around town, the Genny fitted well in the shops, with a visit to several shops. However, we hit a snag with a visit to a café – the Genny can’t get close to a table because of the handle bar and the seat being so high, it doesn’t fit under the table top. This meant that I was sat quite high and far back when enjoying a coffee with my family. It was comfortable nonetheless – I could turn freely in the Genny thanks to the Tarta backrest and I removed the handles whilst I supped my coffee. Alternatively I could have transferred to a chair, but then I wouldn’t have met Jim and had a long chat about the benefits of the Genny.
Going to the loo was straight forward – remove the handles, drop one of the side clothing defenders and slide over. Small features like the defenders being able to drop to the side make a huge difference.
Heading home whilst waiting at the bus stop, we were turning heads, this time of the bus drivers who thought it to be quite a cool wheelchair, judging from the number for thumbs up and waves. A popular bus pass holder – who knew?!
What’s the Tarta backrest about?
Good question – it’s a flexible backrest moves with your torso, allowing you to twist and move around whilst keeping your hips and legs straight. It’s a good backrest if you have great core strength, as this frees you to move around a lot more than a standard or support backrest.
This, coupled with the sprung reclining element of the Genny backrest means that you are almost sat on a stool with an invisible back – an invisible back that gives decent support.
Down at the park, I was more able to get around the park than I normally can in a manual wheelchair, cruising over the grass with ease. Pushing the children on the swing took a bit more practise, leaning a little to keep moving as I helped one of the younger children to get moving.
My eldest was keen to look at the skate park, which meant that the Genny attracted attention as the eldest was watching skaters. Apparently, describing the Genny as “sick” was a good thing. A few photos later, one youth declared it would be his wheelchair of choice.
My own children loved it more though – I moved around the park with them, joining in rather than sat at the side. The soft surface around the play area didn’t make a difference to the Genny as it glided with ease across what is normally a challenge in my manual wheelchair.
Venturing further afield
I wanted to take the opportunity to put the Genny into go faster mode. With the family in the car heading to walk a dog (don’t ask), I pressed the button to up the speed to join them quickly. Now limited to 8MPH, the Genny flew along, turning heads as it raced up the hill towards my destination.
This was where my confidence was my downfall, with the bumpy and pockmarked pavements being close to scary and on several occasions I crept over pavement cambers that were incredibly steep. However, at 7MPH, I went over a few bumps on a camber and the chair had a wobble, which gave me a bit of a wobble in the confidence zone – Mick’s prediction was right. I don’t like it when predictions come true, but I really should get him to pick my lottery numbers next week.
Cambers are something I should touch on – most pavements have them and I am quite used to managing them in most wheelchairs, both electric and manual. The Genny has an ace up its sleeve though – it can handle a camber without slowing down. This means that (although you are countering it with the steering) you maintain pace with those you are with and can keep part of a discussion without focusing on your driving.
Getting involved is what the Genny is all about – it doesn’t matter where. The go-anywhere attitude of the wheelchair means that when you are Easter egg hunting, you can go all over the garden without worrying about the terrain. Bending over to pick up the eggs became a trial though – putting the feet down each time meant small people swooped in to steal my finds. Consequently I got no chocolate this year. Despite this, I enjoyed getting out in the garden with the family (because the next day, I went to Tesco in the Genny alone and bought a family pack of Twix.)
The children once again were loving the Genny, not least because of the lack of chocolate collecting from me. My participation in the hunt for confectionery was enjoyed rather than being a witness to the whole morning on the side line.
The Genny has a hidden benefit to the way in which it moves. Because of the balance required, you have to use muscle groups in order to maintain motion or slow the wheelchair down. Whilst this is less than I anticipated over the 4 days of the weekend, the physiotherapy benefits from this mean that you are working abdominal muscles and keeping your body function moving.
There are other health benefits too, such as to your posture, gastro and mental health, I am sure. There is a probably a project there for a university student – I can hear the grant applications being written as I type.
Charging and battery life
The Genny has a very easy charging process – plug a kettle lead into the front, turn it on and let it charge. A full charge takes about 4-5 hours and lasts around 20 miles. This is quite decent, given the fact that most people walk about 4-6 miles in a day. I would feel confident if I had to go out in London for the day with the device, too.
This means living with the Genny is quite easy. You don’t have a fiddly small plug or cable to try and fit into a round socket and the dust cover protects the charging point well. The only challenge comes when checking the charging status – the LED light requires you to lift the seat up to see if it is illuminated. A small repeater light in the front would be handy.
As an outdoor wheelchair, the Genny is very easy to live with. It is a joy to drive and the small issues of the handles and height don’t knock too much into the enjoyment you’ll have getting out with the family either in the park or at the shops.
You’ll love the LED lights, the beautiful design of the wheels and the futuristic way in which the chair drives. You will be very comfortable with the Tarta backrest and get used to (and appreciate) the small work out you get each day.
Genny offer demonstrations and trials to help you make up your mind, which we recommend you take advantage of when considering placing an order… which brings us to the price. £15,000 sounds like a lot of money – when you consider that a standard power chair without the whistles and flutes is £8,000 and with the options adds up closer to £18,000 – this chair suddenly looks great value.
You can contact Genny on 0845 519 5630 or via www.genny.co
- Genny Urban width – 63cm
- Genny Urban depth – 65cm
- Genny Urban height to seat – 65cm
- Genny Urban weight – 87kg
- Battery range – 20 miles
- Top speed: 8MPH