a mural depicting the lakefront and Chicago skyline, with people walking with white canes in the foreground

Adnana, certified rehabilitation counselor of The Navigator Program, describes her role as “a bridge” between her clients and the vast array of services available to them, something she says the Chicagoland blind and visually impaired community has “needed for a long time.” Whether a client seeks transportation, health care, a job, housing, or a legal advocate, Adnana connects them with what and who they need. People, particularly those who are able-bodied, might wonder why clients would need this service, asking themselves why they can’t simply ‘Look it up?’ For people who are blind or visually impaired, however, whether or not they have learned to adapt to vision loss, Adnana stresses that basic research will often not get someone the results they need.

In a world designed almost exclusively for those with sight, Adnana, who is blind herself, says that vision is our culture’s “chief, most-relied on sense.” Once you lose it, “you don’t just get used to it.” With the loss of sight, she says, often follows the loss “of one’s sense of normal.” Adnana’s goal as Navigator is to return the client to that sense of normal, “whatever that is for them.”

Affordable housing is a common example. Several of Adnana’s clients seek housing they can afford at their income level, which tends to be between %100-%200 of the federal poverty level (i.e., between $12,490 and $24,980 annually). Others seek accommodations for their housing situation, such as the ability to own and live with a guide dog where a landlord would prohibit one. Adnana has referred these clients to legal offices that can provide guidance, advocacy, and expertise. Most recently, Adnana connected a parent with a variety of free-of-charge afterschool programs for her children, programs that the client would not have found on her own amid the stresses of her personal and professional life

Adnana, Friedman Place's Navigator, working with a client over the phone

Adnana, Friedman Place’s Navigator, working with a client over the phone.

When asked about her inspiration to enter the field of social services, Adnana says she’s “empathic. [One of her] core values is to help others…but everyone says that.” She distinguishes what this means to her by explaining that she wants to help others so that they can help themselves. Much like her supervisor, Tony, Adnana is careful not to approach a client and what they need from the perspective of, “If I can do it, you can do it.” The comparison does not elicit help, but precludes it: “Everyone deals with vision loss differently, and for different lengths of time.” By connecting a client to services that can promote their sense of agency, of ‘I can do it,’ she can reconnect someone to their sense of normal and, in doing so, “make a difference in the world.”

Outside of work, one of Adnana’s passions includes reading and writing prose and poetry. She has a lifelong love for storytelling, though she feels her deepest connection to poetry. The visceral nature of the form enables her to best process and express her ideas and emotions. However, with the distance of time and the clarity of hindsight, prose has the same potential for her. Her memoir piece, Rollercoaster to Darkness, was published in the semiannual anthology Behind Our Eyes.

She also helps take care of a four-year-old girl in Bosnia through SOS Children’s Village, an organization that aids hundreds of thousands of children each year through alternative care, family strengthening, education and empowerment, and other community-based work.