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Moving at the Speed of Sight. Powered by Pilates

Roland Smiley’s Story

Perception is a funny thing. What you think people are capable of may be totally different than what they can do. I know my current perception of persons who are blind is quite different than what it used to be. Of course much of that difference is because I lost my sight forty years ago in a gunshot accident while hunting.

After the accident I made a vow that I was going to continue to live my life as I chose. One of those choices includes staying in shape. I’m a retired business executive and have always been very physically active. I continued to go to the gym three times a week even after I lost my sight.

As time went by I felt I needed something to balance my cardio and weight workouts. I had heard about Pilates, how it could really help with proprioception and balance, and was curious to try it. So one day I just cold-called Angela at Capital Pilates to set up a private session.

That turned out to be one of the best cold calls I’ve ever made.

One thing that Pilates really helps me with is spatial relationships. As a person who is blind this is a necessity. For those of us who have guide dogs it is even more crucial. Imagine being blindfolded and led through city streets and crosswalks with complete trust in the canine at the end of the harness. Knowing where your body is in space becomes a critical part of being able to travel.

A lot of individuals who are blind also have a tendency not to establish eye-level contact or have good posture because they can’t grasp that spatial orientation. I always make a concentrated effort to do both, and Pilates has let me create and maintain the posture and balance that some lack. In fact I’ve been told by many people they didn’t realize I was blind - even when I was using a guide dog!

Basically Pilates takes all of the functional movement components I need and puts it a routine I can do. It is has taught me to concentrate on working within my own body and mind, and it totally challenges me.

Speaking of challenges, I want to show all people that blindness is that: a challenge, not a disability We are like everyone else, we just can't see. That shouldn’t stop us from living a normal life. However, some of us get perceived as being helpless and, quite honestly, many of us let ourselves fall into that misperception.

But we have so much more capability than that.

I try to use my life as an example. My wife is sighted but I do my own cooking, own housecleaning, own shopping. And Pilates has helped me do that - it really has brought me to a better part of my life and gives me the body feedback I need to function normally in a sighted world.

I shouldn’t be the exception. I should be the norm.

Roland and Angela used the following equipment:

Roland Smiley
Learn More About

» Pilates
» Pilates for Rehabilitation
» Pilates in Commercial Fitness
» Starting a Pilates Studio

More Inspiring True Stories

» Sally Brown’s Story
» Daniel Lyon’s Story
» Peter Landres’ Story
» Megan Fisher’s Story
» Rashmi Gandhi’s Story
» Grant Korgan’s Recovery from Paralysis
» Roland Smiley’s Challenge with Blindness
» Mark Jeffe’s Recovery from a Spinal Injury
» Marc Winter’s Recovery from Breast Cancer

About Angela Anthony and Capital Pilates

Angela has been practicing and teaching Pilates for 10 years. She established Capital Pilates in Albany, NY to offer her students a fully equipped, modern, spacious studio with a serene atmosphere. The students at Capital Pilates are a diverse group with a wide range of physical fitness levels from professional athletes to reluctant movers. Angela credits working with foreign language students for helping her learn how to pare directions down to the essentials and phrase them with great precision to better guide her students. This skill was strengthened when she began working with two blind students who also need clear and precise instructions to help them orient themselves in a world without visual cues. They had to construct their own images from her words: what part of the body is stable, which part moves, is the body balanced and straight, where is it in space? Angela is immensely impressed with their perseverance and courage and is humbled by their good humor and patience as they have collaborated to find ways to communicate and understand the Pilates method.

» Learn more about Capital Pilates at