Asphalt is a word of Greek origin that means “secure”. Asphalt, when used in the paving and roofing industries, contributes to the physical security of American homes as well as the buildings and roads associated with American industry. Asphalt shingles are the most commonly used materials in American roofs. Approximately 68% of American driveways are made of asphalt.Asphalt has a special significance for the driveways of people with mobility disabilities who use assistive equipment. Asphalt is a solid-surface material that is safer for use than materials made of aggregate-surfaces such as gravel and shells. Falls are less likely to occur on driveways that have a solid surface, and mobility equipment can be used more effectively. Approximately one out of three Americans over the age of 65 falls at least once a year.
If you close your eyes and think of asphalt, the first image may be a long, black road. Use your imagination to follow this road down history’s path, and you may arrive in Babylon sometime around 625 B.C. when the first asphalt road was built. The asphalt used in this early construction occurred naturally, and was found in asphalt lakes and in rock. Asphalt lakes and rock remain part of our natural environment, but the asphalt used in modern construction is a by-product of crude oil refinement. Asphalt represents a heavier oil that is left over after lighter oils are removed. The first American asphalt plant was built in 1901. During the 1940’s, asphalt technology developed as America entered World War 11 and sought stronger surfaces for our aircraft. The 1956 Interstate Highways Act led to further developments in the asphalt industry. Highway construction equipment improved as the result of $51 billion in allocations.
Asphalt has many applications in addition to its use as a roofing material and as paving material for parking lots, residential driveways and subdivision roads. Asphalt covers our highways and airport runways, and is used in ports and freight yards. It is used in the agricultural industry as flooring for barns, cattle feed lots, poultry houses and greenhouses. Sea walls, dikes, reservoirs, and fish hatcheries are built with asphalt. Asphalt is also used in recreational surfaces such as golf and bicycle paths, basketball and tennis courts, and on racetracks. Finally, asphalt is a paving material that can be used with comparative safety by people with disabilities who use assistive equipment for mobility. The use of asphalt on driveways, pathways and flooring can encourage the participation of people with disabilities in the activities that connect us.
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