The concept of a self-propelling wheelchair to aid in mobility for those who are unable or who have difficulty walking due to illness, injury, or disability, dates back to the mid 1600’s. This design evolved over time becoming lighter, easier to use, adjustable, and more comfortable.

Wood frames have been replaced with lightweight alloys such as aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber.

Wooden wheels are now made from composite materials wrapped with tires that are solid rubber, treaded, pneumatic, or flat free.

Seats are now padded nylon or vinyl and are available in all sizes.

Backs are fixed, adjustable, or fully recline.

Arm rests flip back, are removable, and height adjustable.

Even with all of the innovation and new materials used in manufacturing the wheelchairs of today, two basic principles of physics remain the same: Motion and Gravity, which often result in falls and injuries.

These two principles apply when the user either forgets or is unable to secure the manual wheel locks on a wheelchair during transfers. When the locks are not used as a person attempts to sit into or stand from a wheelchair; the wheelchair, along with their seat will roll away from them, with gravity leaving nowhere to go but down.

This type of wheelchair fall can easily be prevented, yet they happen every day. Those using a wheelchair are already dealing with limited mobility and an unexpected fall can cause new injuries or exacerbate the conditions that resulted in the need for a wheelchair in the first place.

Falls such as this, especially to those who are elderly, most often lead to a greatly reduced quality of life as well as robbing them of living their life independently.

“Aging in Place” is a term used to describe the process of adapting one’s home for the current and changing needs of aging. The primary objective of aging in place is to create a living environment which allows you to safely remain in your home independently as long as possible.

A home assessment will identify risk factors within your home that may inhibit your goal of aging in place and offer a plan to resolve these issues based not only on current, but long term needs as well.

One major focus of a good home assessment is fall prevention, especially in bathrooms where a fall is most likely to occur. Good lighting is essential. Grab bars, safety poles, bath seats or lifts, and slip resistant surfaces offer additional safety.

Handrail systems, floor to ceiling safety poles and other types of safety railing will help prevent a fall from happening in other areas of the home.

A significant amount of time and thought goes into a good plan to age in place. However, one major fall risk that often results in the same devastating impact as a fall in the bath tub and is all too often overlooked is wheelchair falls.


  • Roughly 1/3 of the elder population over the age of 65 will fall each year
  • Over half of all seniors will fall by age 80
  • Those who fall are up to three times more likely to have another fall
  • 40% of nursing home admissions and 25% of hospital admissions are due to falls
  • 40% of individuals who fall and are admitted to a nursing home or hospital never return home to live independently
  • Close to half of all seniors have a fear of falling; resulting in a damaging impact on health and overall well-being, as well as a loss of confidence and restricting themselves from activities with others

Obviously, not all of the falls in these statistics are attributed to individuals who simply do not lock the wheels on a wheelchair, but those that are could have been prevented.

The most common reasons that wheel locks are not used include:

  • Dementia and other cognitive disorders
  • Medication
  • Lack of strength or dexterity in hands to full engage them
  • New to wheelchair use
  • Confusion

As a nursing home Medical Director for over thirty years, Dr. Grady Dugas of Marion, Louisiana saw this need first hand. Having witnessed residents routinely fall and suffer injuries while using wheelchairs, Dr. Dugas made it his mission to find a way to stop these preventable falls from ever happening.

His solution was to create an automatic wheel lock that would lock the wheels the moment the user stands from the seat and unlock the wheels the moment the user was safely seated. This would ensure that each and every time a wheelchair user sits in or stands from a wheelchair, there is a fixed and stable seat to sit into, or a fixed and stable base to push off of while standing.

Experimenting with different wheelchair locking and fall prevention systems, he was awarded a patent in 1993. After redesigning and perfecting the system over the next six years with United Plastic Molders, Inc. in Jackson, Mississippi, a new design was patented in 1999, and Safer Automatic Wheelchair Locks, or Safer Locks, was formed.

Today, with over twenty years of refinement and proven use, Safer Locks is the standard in fall prevention for wheelchair users across the country.


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Safer Locks

Automatic Wheelchair Wheel Locks

105 E. Rankin Street – Jackson, MS 39201

601-353-3193 ext. 215