A blue and white graphic with a photo of Bob Lujano with the NCHPAD Connect logo and the word spotlight below it

Spotlight: Bob Lujano, NCHPAD Expert Inclusion Specialist (EIS)

In this week’s NCHPAD Spotlight, we caught up with Bob Lujano, Expert Inclusion Specialist (EIS). Bob shared his favorite things about NCHPAD, his exploits as a medal winning Paralympic athlete and more!

How long have you been with NCHPAD?

Since 2012.

Tell us about your background & education. What brought you to NCHPAD?

I am originally from Kansas and grew up in Texas. I graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and went to grad school at the University of Tennessee.

After graduating, my first job was in Atlanta. While in Atlanta, I would come to the Lakeshore Foundation (here in Birmingham) to play against their wheelchair rugby team. In 1998, a job opened with Lakeshore. I applied and worked with the Lakeshore Foundation until 2012. That is when NCHPAD Director Dr. James Rimmer brought NCHPAD to the Lakeshore Foundation. The CEO there asked if I wanted to be part of the NCHPAD staff even though I would be at Lakeshore, and I went for it. I worked as a recreation specialist for Lakeshore Foundation until 2011 and then NCHPAD in 2012. I am now the longest-serving Expert Inclusion Specialist (EIS) working with NCHPAD.

How long have you worked with people with disabilities?

Probably since 1991, when I started advocacy work for the Texas Department of Human Services. They went to Washington D.C. in 1991 and 1992, and I went with them to continue the advocacy work with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. I was involved in marches and protests to improve accessibility for transportation, education and employment.

What program or programs do you work with? How long have you worked with that program?

Like I mentioned before, I’ve been with NCHPAD since 2012. Within NCHPAD, I’ve helped out with the MENTOR, GROWTH and Coffee Club since their foundations.

What do you do?

With NCHPAD, I have been involved with grant responsibilities that primarily include resource creation and dissemination of resources. These include calling and delivering resources to participants.

What talents or expertise do you bring to NCHPAD or this program?

Being the oldest EIS, I have been a part of every aspect of NCHPAD. I am also a Paralympian. I was on the 2004 U.S. wheelchair rugby team that won the bronze medal. I also wrote the book No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, published in 2014. It speaks about the responsibilities of NCHPAD and advocacy for people with disabilities. I am an international professional public speaker. I talk about advocacy for people with disabilities and NCHPAD. I was in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Murderball, released in 2005.

What is your favorite thing about NCHPAD?

The awesome team that starts with our directors, Dr. Rimmer and Dr. Zoe Young, on down to Penny Edwards and Alex Martinez, who lead my department. NCHPAD has a great team that is full of many people with the same passion and the goal of wanting to serve people with disabilities.

I also like having direct contact with people with disabilities because I can relate to their experiences and provide personal experiences, along with a huge variety of services and resources.

What’s your favorite NCHPAD resource or video series?

I have been responsible for helping with the ADA chats with Eli Wolf and Dr. Rimmer. I was a participant in the video of the ADA 25. Also, I helped create the Embrace Your Heart and Health video.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year?

Working with an awesome team and taking everything a step further. Providing and creating resources for people with disabilities and looking to extend what I have done to a greater capacity, advocacy and outreach. I share the same endeavors of this facility to improve the health of people with disabilities.

Share a success story. Tell us about a time when you really saw a NCHPAD program or resource working in the life of a participant.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were all at home, people had to wear masks, and it was difficult to put on my N95 mask because of my disability. So, I recorded a video reel of me creating a way to wear a mask. I did a video of me putting the mask together and putting the mask on. That reel was shared by the CDC on social media, and they spoke highly of the video.

What hobbies do you have outside of work?

I’m very much involved with my church community. I participate in bible study, lectures and occasionally speak to the youth. I’m also involved in sports and activities. I have to stay active. The battle with secondary health conditions is something people with disabilities have to experience. I know I must work out and exercise.

What’s your favorite food, favorite thing to cook or favorite recipe?

Being of Mexican-American descent, anything that’s Mexican food. I love tacos, burritos, tamales and churros. I also make my own burrito meat. That’s my favorite!

What’s your favorite music, movies or tv shows?

With music, I will listen to anything that is good regardless of the genre, but mostly classic rock or old-school R&B. I love it!

Movies, I like it all. Recently, I took my granddaughter to see the Barbie movie, but I mainly did that for her. I grew up loving action and adventure films. I was also into scary films, but since I have gotten older, I think it’s probably not a good idea to watch them!

I haven’t really been into TV since Seinfeld, but I have watched Ozark and Breaking Bad. Typically, I watch sports on live TV.

What’s the last book you read? How was it?

The 1619 Project. I love it and think it’s a must-read, especially for anyone in the Southeast. I felt like it was very poignant and answered many questions for me. I think it’s an important step forward if you want an idea of why our country is the way it is. I highly recommend The 1619 Project. I also like anything from Matthew Kelly and Dr. David Anders.

Who or what inspires you?

Sports athletes, random acts of kindness and my family. My children and grandchildren are outstanding and growing so fast. And of course, my wife!

What’s your favorite quote?

“…Seek first the kingdom of God, and all his righteousness will be added unto you…” (Matthew 6:31-34 KJV). As much as I like to work out, exercise and play sports, I must have that spiritual connection with my spouse and prayer life.

If you could switch careers for a day, what would you choose?

Quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys! I also just finished a documentary on Bill Gates, and what impressed me most is that he reads 50 books a year. He said he tries to expand his mind with as much knowledge as possible. I would love to be able to do that. Lebron James, Messi and Ronaldo have also all had great careers in sports, and I would love to be that successful.

What’s one thing (not related to your job) that you could teach someone else how to do?

Wheelchair rugby. I have been doing it for 29 years and have seen everything in the sport. That includes a lot of winning and losing. I know the sport inside and out, backwards and forwards. I could mentor or coach a team.