Life in a wheelchair is difficult. According to the latest US census, 20 percent of Americans have some sort of disability, about 10 percent of Americans have some sort of visible physical disability, and over 3 million people use a wheelchair permanently. In fact, people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States. With so many Americans using wheelchairs, technologies such as the portable ramp allow access for those in a wheelchair. These portable ramps are crucial for allowing those on a wheelchair the ability to get from place to place.
With the rise of manufacturers for this new helpful product, the question must be asked: what is the best material for a portable ramp?
Generally, wheelchair ramps are made from a few types of materials: aluminum, wood, concrete, steel. However, portable ramps are made from overwhelmingly aluminum. Let’s look at why they are so popular for portable ramps specifically. We will look at the following factors: safety/durability, portability/engineering, and price.
Wood is not the best material in terms of safety nor durability. Its safety largely depends on its maintenance. Wet wood is not able to hold as much weight as dry wood is. Compared to the other materials used, it is also unable to hold off as much weight as the others naturally. This makes portable wood ramps difficult to engineer.
Steel and concrete are both solid in this category, with both having high weight capacities. However, while both are safe, it is important to note the maintenance required for steel ramps. Steel ramps are prone to rust. This makes it so that it is often not the best choice for portable ramps as it is not a good idea to bring it to wetter climates.
In terms of safety, aluminum works well. Being metal, aluminum ramps are inherently durable and require little maintenance. With good engineering, aluminum ramps are able to hold up to 800lbs of weight, way sufficient for the average person in a wheelchair. In this category, aluminum is able to be better than wood and steel and on par with concrete.
In this aspect, wood’s lightweight nature allows it to excel. Being lightweight, it makes it so that it is easily carryable and foldable; it is not difficult to engineer a portable wood ramp. This makes it so that wood is extremely portable.
While steel is engineerable, it is also extremely heavy. This makes it so that it is difficult to bring around to certain places.
With the nature of how concrete is made, it is difficult to engineer such a portable ramp. Especially with the foldability nature of these portability ramps, it is difficult to imagine how to fold “concrete.”
Just as in the previous category, aluminum shines here. While some of the other materials can also be engineered to make it portable, Aluminum stands out. Not only is it lightweight, being aluminum, but it is also easy to be mass-produced and engineered.
The price of these materials differ. This is the one category in which aluminum is not the best. Wood is by far the cheapest material here. While it can be thought that aluminum is generally cheap, the aluminum used for these portable ramps is often high-grade and henceforth, extremely expensive. This is what makes these portable ramps often expensive; they cost around $300 per ramp.
Nevertheless, while the price of aluminum may be high, its ability to both be lightweight and durable makes it the clear best choice for portable ramps.
After looking at these factors, it is clear why Aluminum is the best choice for portable ramps. Generally, these portable ramps use an aluminum base and rubber for traction.
Aluminum is more durable and safe than wood. It requires less maintenance and is more lightweight than steel. It is more realistic and lightweight than concrete. These factors make it the clear best material to be used for a portable ramp.
However, it is important to do your research and purchase the right one when purchasing a portable ramp. Certain brands of portable ramps have simply better engineering that makes them more portable or more durable than others. It is important to recognize that the material that a ramp is created with is just one aspect of it!