Karina Gomez - Candidates - Puerto Rico Karina Gómez decided to share her experience because of the love she has for her son, Jesús David, who accompanies her in the photo.
Image courtesy of Karina Gómez

The single mom of a 27-year-old man with cerebral palsy thinks most of the candidates lack awareness and commitment to people with disabilities.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Karina Gómez has a small group of friends on Facebook with whom she shares selfies and thoughts, but she never thought a video she recorded in moments of utter frustration would go viral.

In her post, Gómez shared the disappointment, sadness, and dismay she felt about what she described as a lack of respect and interest toward people of functional diversity from five of the six candidates for governor.

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On Oct. 27, the Institute for Developmental Deficiencies of the Medical Sciences Campus of Puerto Rico University organized a roundtable discussion about the needs of diverse-functionality patients. The six candidates for governor were invited to participate. Gómez, who is studying to become a social worker, is doing her practice at the institute.

“Of the six candidates, only one of them addressed the questions,” Gómez told The Americano. “One of them never answered. Another one canceled the night before and the other two canceled after the event had already started.”

Gómez has two sons. One of them is 27 years old and has cerebral palsy. His name is Jesús David, and his needs determine the dynamics of his home. As a quadriplegic, an easily accessible and comfortable house are important. The young man cannot chew, so the family adjusts his menu accordingly.

“My son determines even which clothes I wear,” Gómez said. “I would like to wear a skirt, dress, and high heels, but I am a mother who has to shoulder a 27-year-old son in a wheelchair—therefore I cannot wear what I want. My son determines everything in my life, absolutely everything.” 

The single mother is currently unemployed. She said she doesn’t want to describe her experience at the roundtable as a complaint about the political arena. Her frustration toward candidates and people in general, she explained, is mostly due to the ignorance and lack of sensitivity for people with functional disabilities. 

“I think it’s a shame that at the brink of an election, a mother’s indignation is the reason these matters are discussed,” Gómez said. “The awareness and social and political maturity of this island should be enough to understand this problem deserves the same attention as infrastructure, education, health, and many other areas. We are also a part of this society.”

The only candidate who was available for the roundtable was Juan Dalmau of the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP by its Spanish initials). The candidate sympathized with Gómez’ comments on Twitter.

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The mother said that what is concerning about the situation is how it reflects society’s values and power plays.

“It’s not just a question of only one in six people responding,” Gómez said. “No, we are talking about six options for government. Five turned their backs on 20% of the population of Puerto Rico—that is the percentage of people with functional disabilities on the island.”