Daniel Jara has had some experience adjusting to transitions in his life. When he was 14, he and his family moved to Paterson, N.J. from Lima, Peru. By the time he graduated from Paterson's Eastside High School in 1969, he was beginning to experience medical problems that affected his nervous system. Doctors feared he might have Polio. In 1984, his condition was diagnosed as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic motor neuron disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. No longer able to walk, Daniel was confined to a power wheelchair for mobility.
In his 19-year career Daniel, who graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor's degree in accounting and economics and a master's degree in finance, has become a familiar face in the New Jersey business community. Since 1977 he has operated the Rimac Agency, an insurance, Hispanic market and international trade consulting firm, and he is the founding president of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, a network of local Hispanic chambers representing over 50,000 Hispanic businesses in the New Jersey and Philadelphia area. Just recently, he was named the recipient of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Northern New Jersey's 2007 Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award for New Jersey.
In Daniel's case you might say, ‘Disability? What disability?' "I don't see myself as ‘disabled;' I don't use that word," says Daniel. "Sometimes people think that means you're not able to do something. That's why people now use ‘physically challenged,' which is more appropriate."
Daniel's best advice to anyone who might be facing mental or physical challenges is to persevere--and go to school. "You need to look at this more like a challenge than anything else. It's a lot easier to say, ‘I give up.' That's a cop out as far as I'm concerned," says Daniel. "I'm a perfect example that you can overcome barriers. I overcome barriers every day from the time I get up in the morning. Education is the most important thing because when you're suffering a disability, you need more resources just to get by. And if you want to go further than that, you need even more."