ADA Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary

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This week, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 25th anniversary. For millions of Americans living with disabilities, ADA provides protection from discrimination and guarantees equal access for persons with disabilities to employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

As a strategic communications firm that helps public and private agencies inform and engage individuals regarding transportation, safety, air quality, energy, and the environment, we know the vital importance of reaching all market segments, and finding meaningful ways to encourage participation in the public outreach process. The ADA impacts how we communicate to our stakeholders every day. From planning public meetings and designing websites to promoting programs like RollDC and producing publications, ADA and compliance with Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act are integrated into every phase of the process.

We follow the philosophy that if information is important enough to be public, it ought to be made accessible to everyone. We are committed to communicating orally, visually, digitally and through the printed word clearly, concisely and without restriction. We want all stakeholders to freely access information, and be part of the process.

We urge everyone to join ASC in taking the pledge to reaffirm the principles of equality and inclusion and recommit efforts to reach full ADA compliance.

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Microgrids Are the New Kale

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By the time we left New York Energy Week 2015, we’d heard nearly every angle of the business case for microgrids—the “smart food” of the energy world—and how smart grid data sources and new ways to use data, will be a vital part of the changing landscape of energy generation and distribution in New York and beyond.

We also left more certain than ever that public outreach, customer engagement, and informed communication will be pivot points for successful implementation of this sea change in how we approach energy here in New York.

Every year since 2012, energy-sector luminaries gather in New York to talk about the future of energy.  Established by Enerknol, the energy policy data and analytics innovator, and enthusiastically endorsed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, the annual four-day event hits the notes on the most innovative thinking in the energy sector, and this year was no disappointment. The pervasive theme was microgrids—and the subtext was data—how data will be collected, shared, and protected, to feed data-driven technologies to make energy more available, affordable, and accessible in New York.

Heady stuff for sure and more than a little geeky, but from our public outreach perch, the communications challenge to energy agencies, utilities, and companies is daunting. To move these new ideas into use, the energy community will need to understand what business, residential, and municipal customers can and will afford, and it will need to advance engaging, plain-language outreach to help customers understand why and how they should buy in on these new concepts, and move them to act.

The faster communities embrace and invest in microgrids, the quicker they will start to realize the benefits. Turns out Hoboken, NJ, has become a go-to model for urban resource resilience with their waterfront community’s commitment to smart grid technology—Mayor Dawn Zimmer explained how microgrids are adding protections from outages such as those experienced in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

But it’s not just about system reliability during power outages.

Utilities are being asked to provide benefits that go far beyond their original compacts, benefits that include not just delivery of kWhs of electricity but services that are enabled by the sale of kWhs (e.g., efficiency audits, renewable options, storage, and innovation investment). In the new world of increasing demand, aging infrastructures, and expanding smart grids, microgrids, and residential renewables, resilience itself may become valued itself as a service on its own, like insurance.

With stakes this high, leaders are making energy-efficiency initiatives a priority. Ozgem Ornektekin, Deputy Commissioner of Energy Management, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services, announced that the Big Apple has set a goal of reducing GHG emissions 80% by 2050. This is a big stretch—and a laudable one. It also represents a big opportunity for anyone who can help the City get there.

There’s no way to capture four days of new ideas, but one of our favorite soundbites was from Micah Kotch, director for the NY Prize microgrid competition managed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), who called microgrids the new kale. Good for you, but you need a recipe everyone will dig into.

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This time, it worked.

Staff Thank You

Just inked a lease on a dream.  After 22 years, ASC has relocated to a loft-like space in downtown White Plains, and while the location, technology, and access to work force talent are great, here’s what matters most about this move:  ASC is a success story for the public agencies and large prime contracting clients we serve—and for the government programs that give small, women-owned, disadvantaged business a seat at the government contracting table.

There’s plenty of doubt cast on government programs, but our move is a “this time it worked” moment.

In our home state of New York, Governor Cuomo set a new goal of 30% for contract awards to small business.  And large businesses who win contracts are expected to allocate a percentage of the work to small business—and to mentor the small businesses on their contracting teams.

New York worked hard to keep us here.  The support and incentives from programs like the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency and Hire Westchester made us want to stay—and helped us choose Westchester as the place to set down new roots.

So we’re using this relocation to say Thank You. Thank you to the government programs in transportation, energy, and the environment that have trusted us with their communications, graphics, and event needs. Thank you to the prime contractors that have partnered with us, time and again, to deliver effective and innovative public outreach. And thank you to the sub-contractors that make a small company into a big force.

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