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When my wife and I were asked to host a house concert for a group of student musicians, we agreed but recognized a problem. Our piano had not been tuned since we last moved and was in desperate need of maintenance. 

Crowdsourcing online for piano tuners identified the highest rated and most reviewed in Grand Rapids. While reading reviews to narrow my choice, I discovered an article about Tony Rodriguez, and it struck a chord with me because he said that he has autism.

Many people shy away from others who are “different,” and their reluctance sometimes can take the form of prejudice, discrimination, and even racism. I was touched by the story of Tony learning to play piano but preferring to crawl inside and explore how it worked. So I invited him to tune our piano. 

Tony’s online scheduling system works well, and he has robust communication that allows everything to be handled without communicating in person. Confirmation emails explained his autism and how he works best. All of this is clearly by design; as he states, “Piano technology is my strength. Social communication is not.” 

The process was effective, informative, and demonstrated sincerity. He closed one email with, “I look forward to meeting you and working on your piano. Your willingness to give me the opportunity to provide a quality service means so much to me. It gives me a place in a world that often overlooks who I am as an individual and a child of God.”

After he left, I wrote an online review, including:

The proof is in the results, and Tony did a great job. When I called, his voicemail said that he preferred to communicate via email, which is not a problem. I had read up on him before calling (news articles, his website, and reviews), so I knew he had some form of autism. Shortly after scheduling, he sent an email explaining more about him and his condition. I appreciated his professionalism, and the appointment went without any issue.

Our piano was ready and sounded beautiful at the house concert.

Paul Helm attends Westminster Presbyterian Church, Grand Rapids MI. This article is reproduced by permission and first appeared in Breaking Barriers (Winter 2018) whose theme is Employing People with Disabilities

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