Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities? | Interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of Philosophy

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities? | Interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of Philosophy

Differents groups of people walking on the streets

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities? | Interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of Philosophy

As accessibility experts, we often talk about inclusion to explain that our society should be built to suit the needs of everybody, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. We came across an article* by French Doctor of Philosophy, Gabrielle Halpern, in which she entirely rejects the term “inclusion” to favor “hybridization”. Indeed, we were appalled at discovering that the etymology of the word “inclusion” didn’t exactly match our values… 

But should we use the term “hybridization” instead? Gabrielle Halpern has been doing some research about this particular notion that comes from the figure of the centaur: the mythological creature from Ancient Greece, half-human and half-horse. When Dr Halpern states that we are all centaurs, she means that we are all hybrids: we all are several different things. This implies that we are not made to fit in society’s norms but that society should embrace our diversity, our hybridization. This can make it stronger and definitely better.

Discovering that “inclusion” may not be the best word to use when we talk about accessibility, we asked Dr Halpern to tell us more about hybridization. Let’s dive into this fascinating subject! You’ll probably find out you are a centaur too (and that’s great)! 

Hello Gabrielle Halpern, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I’m a centaur! More precisely, I have a PhD in Philosophy. I graduated from Ecole Normale Supérieure (French research university) and I currently work as a research fellow there. Simultaneously, I worked for several years at different cabinet ministers where I was in charge of forward planning and speeches. Then I joined a startup incubator to work with young entrepreneurs and guide them to develop their activity. And now I advise companies and public institutions while actively pursuing my works in philosophy. I have a foot in each world to try and progressively build bridges between them, – hybridizations –, despite their obvious contradictions and their difficulties to connect together… I define myself as a centaur because this “half-human, half-horse” figure is the ultimate hybridization. This is the reason why I dedicated my philosophy thesis and my essay “Tous centaures ! Éloge de l’hybridation” (only available in French at Le Pommier, 2020) to centaurs. To me, hybridation isn’t just a research project, I intimately live it and I see it as a vision of the world, a society project I wish I could contribute to build. 

We questioned ourselves thanks to an article you wrote in HUFFPOST, “Don’t say ‘inclusion’ anymore when you talk about disabilities”. For us, inclusion means taking into account the specific needs of everybody, including those with disabilities. Why are you opposed to the term “inclusion” and why do you prefer talking about “hybridization”? 

The term “inclusion” is more and more employed but this common noun is derived from the Latin word inclusio which meant “imprisonment”. This referred to the seclusion of hermits and monks. We don’t realize it but this analogy is awful! When a child is born in a family, do we really talk about inclusion, insertion or integration? No we don’t! And there’s a reason for that! When a child is born, everything changes: the balance of power, everybody’s identities, the interactions between all those involved, the external relationships, the way we look and don’t look at each other or even the way we put ourselves in relation to others. There’s no integration, insertion nor inclusion… There’s hybridization! Meaning there’s an encounter that makes everybody step out of themselves. If we go back to the figure of the centaur, – the figure of the ultimate hybridization –, this is precisely what came into play: the human and the horse had to step aside to create this unifying third figure that the centaur is. Yes, the encounter can only take place when all interested parties metamorphose. Concerning people with disabilities, whether they have a physical or intellectual disability, it would be awful to include them, as if they had to be content to have the place we’d grant them,  – taking into account the whole effort they’d provide to adapt  –, as long as it doesn’t interfere with our practices. We need to understand that the real challenge is our ability to accept to step aside and to leave our comfort zone. The disability that the other has, because it’s outside the norm, because it “transgresses” the absurd box we’ve built and lived in, awakens our fear of the unknown. Let’s stop being afraid and let’s hybridize ourselves! By doing this, we’ll metamorphose our management skills, our organizations, our jobs, our recruitments, our professional relationships and our innovations!

Instead of talking of an inclusive society, we should rather talk of a society that’s turning into an hybridization seeing that it’s not just about including all of those who are different, physically or mentally, but to create the conditions of an encounter that enables a reciprocal metamorphosis. At companies, public institutions, schools, colleges and universities, research labs, restaurants, associations and clubs – everywhere! –, it’s urgent not only to give a place to those who don’t fit in our box but to accept to let ourselves be transformed by them. It’s not up to them to fit in our box; it’s us who need to leave our box seeing that after all, we are the ones imprisoned, included, isolated!

Isn’t it paradoxical: societies are actually hybrid (without knowing it) but want to remain homogeneous at all cost?

Your question is very interesting! I’d say that a major part of reality is hybrid. This part gets bigger and bigger and concerns a lot of fields in our lives. Of course, from a biological and cultural point of view, we all are hybrids, – without truly realizing it –, but societies work as silo structures, with independent identities, independent communities, because of this drive towards homogeneity that works both at an individual and collective level. 

A few words on this idea of a “drive towards homogeneity”  that I developed in my research work: in concrete terms, this drive leads us to only keep company with people who look like us, to only be interested in what we already know, to only follow social media accounts that match ours. Thus we build ourselves surrounded by a homogeneous bubble. This drive makes us seek this absurd notion of “purity”; it makes us homogenize everything and everybody we meet so that we don’t have to accept their otherness, their difference. This drive, that can reassure us and give us a feeling of protection, is within everyone of us and it’s difficult to resist it. Everyday we work to fight against it; the boulder of Sisyphus that we constantly have to haul at the mountaintop. Intrinsically, because of our fear of uncertainty, we have an inability to fully and naturally accept singularity, diversity, alterity. In his work, Crowds and Power, one of the greatest European thinkers of the XXth century, Elias Canetti tells us that above all the human being fears being in touch with the unknown, and that all distances, all the behaviors he adopts are dictated by this phobia. It’s only within this standardized mass that he thinks he can be liberated from this phobia. Thus this is what happens: the emergence of communities, groups, founded on an identity principle and whose members are identical to each other. Any element, any person, any odd or heterogeneous idea, is repelled and rejected, because it can be perceived as a threat against this reassuring homogeneity that the group has built and in which it took refuge and imprisoned itself. It’s in accordance with this drive towards homogeneity that the human being has always worshipped identity – from the Latin identitas, “quality of what is the same” – and has always been wary of everything hybrid around him.

How is hybridization a chance for our society? 

First of all, a definition: hybrid embraces what’s heterogeneous, contradictory, blended, imperceptible; it’s everything that doesn’t fit in our box. Hybridization represents the unlikely marriage, that is to say the encounter between things, people, jobs, ideas, worlds that all are radically different. But for this encounter to happen, for hybridization to truly take place, it’s not enough to put them next to each other, we need to work to make their metamorphosis reciprocal.

The world is indeed more and more hybrid and this major tendency concerns almost all the areas of our lives… Take cities for example: revegetation projects are multiplying, urban farms, vegetable gardens, livestock farming on building rooftops are developing to such an extent that the boundary between the city and the countryside tends to become more and more slight. The box “city” is exploding. This hybridization of nature and urbanism takes place in parallel with the one between the products and services provided by companies. If we used to be in an industrial city and now we live in a society of services, it’s becoming difficult today to tell the difference between both. They turn into a hybridization of what we could call a society of practices or a society of relationships. These innovations through hybridization are going to disrupt companies, jobs, fields, markets and the very notion of competition. Schools, colleges and universities, research labs, companies, public administrations are starting, everywhere and more and more, to enhance collaboration; which increases the number of double degrees, confuses job descriptions and jobs and upsets the organizational models and the professional identities. COVID-19 emphasized these hybridizations, metamorphosing our ways to work on-site and remotely. The box “work” needs to be completely rethought. The same applies for objects. They can also form hybridizations: the smartphone, to take the most trivial example, is also an alarm clock, a radio, a scanner and a camera. Paradoxically, it gives us a space/time for leisure and work and it’s all of that at the same time. Regarding territories, we see that “third places” are multiplying: quirky places that regroup economical and services activities, with research, startups, arts and crafts, social innovation or even cultural infrastructures. Besides, companies are more and more aware of their societal responsibility; and social and fair trade economy, the ultimate hybrid economy – since it’s about hybridizing economical logics and social and fair trade logics – could indeed become tomorrow’s economical model. Our ways of buying and doing business also follow this tendency towards hybridization and we see new types of shops emerge where it’s not just about selling and buying, but also playing, improving our knowledge, coming together…

To me, this hybridization we witness represents the positive sign that we’re starting to tame our fear of the unclassifiable and that we’re finally ready to give up our old reassuring categories. The health crisis speeded up even more this tendency. But this tendency was at play even before the virus came into our lives. This hybridization that’s speeding up can make us optimistic regarding the future!

Little by little, we’re starting to realize that hybridization can be a chance for individuals, companies and public institutions, as for society. It makes us better, smarter, less intolerant, less dogmatic, more humble and more agile. My book is an invitation for us to reconcile with reality, thanks to this hybrid way of thinking.

With the digital era, we see that the services provided, the products sold and information are all hyper-personalized. Despite everything, it seems like it all goes in the right direction, isn’t it? 

Indeed now is the time for a tailored-made approach and personalization; the trend becoming more and more about not following the trend. Companies, formed until now by the industrial society, were based on the norm: the herd instinct consumerist approach. Here again, the drive towards homogeneity was at play! It’s the famous quote by Henry Ford: “You can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black.” The whole industry was founded on the belief in homogeneity. But today, things are changing and the car of the future, the truly hybrid car, will be the one designed on singularity; which for me I see as excellent news! Some could think that hyper-personalization is going to reinforce individualism; I’m convinced of the opposite. Individualism often happens when individuals don’t feel respected in their singularity and feel the group is a threat; from the moment when they can finally express it, the group regains meaning. Thus we need to be glad about this weak signal that echoes hybridization: hybridization is the contrary of standardization… In other words, every centaur is unique and this uniqueness is sacred! 

Would you like to say more?

Deep down, we know that we all are centaurs. We’re impossible to grasp, contradictory, quirky, in perpetual metamorphosis… So it’s time to accept ourselves as the centaurs we are! So let’s not be afraid of unlikely marriages: let’s hybridize ourselves and everything! 

Who is Gabrielle Halpern?

She has a PhD in Philosophy. She graduated from École normale supérieure and is currently a research fellow there. Gabrielle Halpern worked at different cabinet ministers, before helping develop startups and advising companies and public institutions. She also has training in theology and exegesis of religious texts. Her research work focuses particularly on the hybrid notion. She is the author of “Tous centaures ! Éloge de l’hybridation” (only available in French at Le Pommier, 2020). (You can visit her website www.gabriellehalpern.com). 

*French article published in HuffPost 

Published on 9th July 2021

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Gabrielle Halpern

We need to understand that the real challenge is our ability to accept to step aside and to leave our comfort zone. The disability that the other has, because it’s outside the norm, because it “transgresses” the absurd box we’ve built and lived in, awakens our fear of the unknown.

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Christine Pestel

Communication Manager

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Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Geolocation | Interview of Valérie Renaudin, Head of GEOLOC Team at University Gustave Eiffel, France

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Geolocation | Interview of Valérie Renaudin, Head of GEOLOC Team at University Gustave Eiffel, France

A visually impaired and his guide dog are part of the research led by GEOLOC Team and Okeenea Digital

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Geolocation | Interview of Valérie Renaudin, Head of GEOLOC Team at University Gustave Eiffel, France

In a previous article, we had already talked about artificial intelligence and how this technology serves people with disabilities. Now, let’s focus on geolocation, a term that’s more and more mentioned in the media. Indeed, everyday we use geolocation, without even realizing it, with GPS that truly make part of our daily lives and have thus become indispensable. But how does it work exactly? How can geolocation have an impact on everybody’s mobility including people with disabilities’ mobility?

In order to decipher all that’s hidden behind the notion of “geolocation”, we met with Valérie Renaudin, Head of GEOLOC Team at University Gustave Eiffel in Nantes, France. In this interview, she lifts the veil on its operation and shares with us her vision, her missions as researcher and expert in this field.

In a few words, can you introduce yourself? 

My name is Valérie Renaudin and I’m currently the Head of GEOLOC Team in Nantes (French West coast), as part of the University Gustave Eiffel. I have a mixed experience, both industrial and academic, spent on several continents during 15 years, in the French and German-speaking Switzerland. Plus the English-speaking Canada in the area of Calgary. 

Can you explain to us the mission of the GEOLOC laboratory at the University Gustave Eiffel? 

The GEOLOC laboratory focuses on geolocation in order to improve the mobility of people and goods. For several years, we’ve produced new ways to calculate and locate mobile objects, what we call dynamic positioning, that go with the rise of new mobility practices and new services based on the geolocation of their carriers.

Traditionally, we used to focus on elements related to transportation such as cars and trains and even more substantial elements meant for air or maritime transport. Later, with the rise of connected objects, we started to focus on the “man in the street” and his way to get around in order to improve his daily life mobility.

 

What are the challenges you’re facing regarding geolocation? And why?

The main challenge we’re facing today is providing an accurate and seamless geolocation to travelers throughout the whole multimodal chain, whatever their getting around may be, whether they’re in good health or have mobility impairments. If we’re interested in this particular challenge (and that’s truly one!), it’s because today the objects that are being used for geolocation weren’t conceived for it. The general public expects connected objects to provide geolocation in any place, this being the opposite of navigation systems that were specifically conceived for cars. 

Today, we want connected objects, which have very low quality sensors, to be sufficiently intelligent to understand who we are while getting around. This way, they can provide the best possible tracing and ultimately, the best wayfinding solution. 

Why are we so interested in these challenges?

It’s simply because it’s almost become something we are owed. Now we consider it’s something that’s available everywhere. We hear a great deal about connected objects, the power of smartphones or even AI. For the general public, the media implies that geolocation is a panacea. But in practice, the gained accuracy is far less important than the one we imagine. The consequence is that a lot of services suffer from it. This concerns emergency services during interventions or mobility support services for people with disabilities.

 

What do you say the connection between technology and mobility is? What will be the concrete benefits for citizens?

Today, technologies make mobility easier. We can see how much the use of technologies shakes up our ways to get around. Personally, having lived on several continents and worked in Canada, I realize how tools have now become essential. I will no longer be able to go without a geolocation solution when I use transportation: a unique and do-it-all tool that enhances my mobility. Being impatient behind the wheel and hating traffic jams, I’m very pleased to be able to use apps such as Waze that use geolocation and combine it with some interpretation to give me the best possible routes.

Today, thanks to these connected objects, we are able to address everybody, regardless of their specificities. That’s the advantage smartphones but also their combinations with artificial intelligence methods provide. Globally, what artificial intelligence can promise us tomorrow is maybe to provide solutions that are adapted to suit our differences. In other words, tomorrow people with impairments or disabilities can hope their difference becomes a descriptive richness in their getting around.

I realize how capable we are today to incorporate differences, whether they’re personal or cultural, through solutions we can develop. 

How do you see tomorrow’s mobility?

I see tomorrow’s mobility as something plural. Meaning that instead of benefiting from an universal solution such as I could have developed in the past, a solution for which we need to adjust for it to be performing in our everyday lives, we can imagine that solutions will know how to address me: Valérie Renaudin or you, Mr X, Mrs Y throughout our trips. 

I imagine this mobility to be sufficiently seamless to enable me to increase my autonomy, to maybe increase my abilities in the course of my aging and finally to explore an environment, whether it’s familiar or not, in a different way.

 

Inclusive mobility, such as mobility for people with disabilities, seems to be a utopia or on the contrary a short-term reality.

I think it’s in the not so distant future and let’s be crazy, maybe short-term. Actually, inclusive mobility is this ability to address solutions or to invent solutions for all, whatever their mobility abilities may be. To be clear, the solutions that are currently being deployed in today’s smartphones don’t take into account mobility specificities nor mobility impairments. Nevertheless, the progress about sensors, the progress about calculation technologies, the comprehension of who we are, simply permit us to imagine that tomorrow we’ll be able to provide more suited solutions and thus to improve the notion of inclusive mobility.

Also, the ability to provide solutions that don’t depend on the infrastructure itself. Their deployment would also enable us to consider covering more vast territories and to make mobility available to people who wouldn’t choose these solutions if they had to pay expensive subscriptions or to subscribe to the latest technology. 

 

Any last words?

One of the most important obstacles concerning the adoption of technologies that permit to improve mobility via an accurate geolocation is actually to have to adopt objects such as smartphones, smartwatches, smart glasses for which the offer is quite limited and consequently having to add an extra technological object to help us get around. It’s interesting but at the same time it causes a lot of problems. They are calculation problems but also problems about the adoption of technologies and choice. I may want to have a mobile with a particular color. Or if I want glasses, will the cameras make them heavy?

Even if we’ve been talking about this for a while and that I haven’t seen it being deployed, won’t we, ultimately, come to a stage when technology will fully be integrated in fabrics and textiles we wear today? Mainly, this integration in fabrics is limited to the problems of antennas, even batteries. But if we could hide somewhere on our clothing all of this technology, we could benefit from an individual and personalized guidance, becoming hands-free. A guidance that would turn into our companion, our daily mobility companion and even our companion to improve our lives.

Bonus: Discover more information about the partnership between the GEOLOC laboratory from the University Gustave Eiffel and French company Okeenea Digital on the improvement of people with disabilities’ mobility! 

What technologies do people with disabilities use in their everyday lives? Read out our articles: 

The Smartphone: a Revolution for the Blind and Visually Impaired!

Mobility Apps for Blind People or how Technology Can Replace Special Assistance at the Airport?

9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020

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Valérie Renaudin, her colleagues from GEOLOC Team and Charlène Milly from Okeenea Digital are studying the mobility of a visually impaired man

The main challenge we’re facing today is providing an accurate and seamless geolocation to travelers throughout the whole multimodal chain, whatever their getting around may be, whether they’re in good health or have mobility impairments.

writer

Christine Pestel

Communication Manager

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Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?July celebrates Disability Pride Month! A month to support and raise awareness on disability. It gives people with disabilities an opportunity to be seen and heard. Obviously, everybody has their own...

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on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

How Do Student Associations Step into Action Regarding Disability in Business Schools? | The Example of HEC Paris

How Do Student Associations Step into Action Regarding Disability in Business Schools? | The Example of HEC Paris

A class is taking place at HEC Paris

How Do Student Associations Step into Action Regarding Disability in Business Schools? | The Example of HEC Paris

In our last article, we saw all that prestigious business school HEC Paris implemented in order to welcome students with disabilities. Its goal being to support students with disabilities all along their academic journey and even beyond. Raising awareness on disability among all students and faculty staff remains essential since it enhances the inclusion of students with disabilities.

But this inclusion doesn’t just depend on the disability referents. The HEC Paris Handicap association, a student association, works closely with the school’s Disability Program for Learners to meet the needs of students with disabilities, whether it concerns their curriculum or their social life on campus.

Soline Toussaint, President of the association, brings to light all the actions of this committed association!

 

Hello Soline, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

My name is Soline, I’m 24 years old and I’m currently doing a Master’s degree at HEC Paris. I’m the President of the HEC Paris Handicap association. It was co-founded last September.

 

Can you tell us more about how this association works regarding disability?

We created the HEC Paris Handicap association having in mind two goals: raising awareness on disability and assisting students with disabilities.

We want to assist learners with disabilities during their academic and professional courses serving as the connection between learners, Alumni, disability referents and companies that seek to be involved in favor of inclusion.

We also want to raise awareness among the whole HEC Paris community and its partners regarding disability by organizing events on campus that are linked to school’s associations and companies.

 

Why was this association created?

Several students got involved alongside the school’s administration to set up a Disability Program for Learners at HEC Paris. It became obvious for us to continue being involved by founding an association that’s by and for students. It’s often easier to reach young people when the initiative comes from a student association rather than the administration. 

 

For the moment, due to COVID-19, business schools like HEC Paris can’t organize physical events. Have you planned any actions and activities once we’ll all have better days?

We have a lot of ideas and we hope that we’ll soon be able to implement them.

We’d like first to set up round-table discussions with personalities from different walks of life to provide a meeting of minds on disability: paralympic athletes, managers/HR/CEOs, employees with disabilities, association presidents… We’d also like to organize parasports workshops, film screenings and awareness days to change people’s minds on disability.

In order to reach a large audience, including the notion of inclusion in some of our speeches is part of our goals. This will be the case from April with a module on diversity and inclusion that will be part of the LVMH Chair. We’d also like to define a strong communication plan in order to use social media to communicate key numbers, certain public debates, awareness videos and make certain diseases and the proper attitudes to adopt known.

Lastly, we’d like for people with disabilities to easily enter into working life organizing resume, cover letter and mentorship workshops with partner companies. We’d also like to incite students with disabilities to apply to HEC Paris and join us!

All of these actions are made possible thanks to the development of strong relationships with other associations (inside and outside HEC) and partner companies of HEC Paris. Our main concern is to raise awareness among the greatest number of people and not just the ones that are directly affected by disability. We are convinced that we’ll be able to change how disability is viewed at work and in everyday life by making future managers and decision makers grow. 

 

HEC Paris has implemented a whole politics towards disability inclusion, do you work hand in hand with disability referents? Teaching staff? If so, can you explain how?

HEC Paris created a Disability Program for Learners to best assist people with disabilities, whether they are learners or employees. It’s crucial that all parties involved are represented and that they work together in order to fully collaborate. Therefore, career and administration offices, teachers, disability referents and students stand together and can count on the support of HEC Paris legal and communication offices. 

For our part, we are committed to convey the voice of learners, regardless of their program (the Grande Ecole program, Specialized Masters and MSc, PhD, MBA, EMBA…) in this ecosystem by regularly participating in discussions. We’re in close contact with the disability referents dedicated to students. Some of them are teachers or are still members of the administration.

 

HEC Paris has more than a hundred associations, do you create connections with some of them?

Indeed, HEC Paris has more than 160 student clubs! In order to reach the largest number of people, including those who don’t feel concerned about disability, it’s essential to develop strong relationships with other student clubs. This enables our actions to gain more impact and bring us visibility on campus.

Last November, we were supposed to organize the screening of the movie The Specials in partnership with movies association Making Of but this was postponed due to the present sanitary situation. We’re going to organize a round-discussion table with the HEC Débats association. Student media KIP also published an article on disability. We’d like to include sports associations to organize parasports workshops during MBAT for example which is a large European sports meeting organized by MBA students from HEC Paris on the campus.

 

What do you wish for 2021 and the following years?

This being my last year at HEC Paris, I’ll graduate next June. I hope that other students will get involved so that the association remains. I wish the sanitary crisis improved so that we could go back to normal. Lastly, I wish for disability not to be seen as scary but for what it is: a strength and a richness for people with disabilities but also for everybody who interacts with them. 

 

Find out more information on accessibility in business schools and colleges in our articles:

How Do Business Schools Include Students with Disabilities? | The Example of HEC Paris

The Trailblazers of College Accessibility in the United States

 

Cover photo credits: Jean-Marc Biais

 

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A workshop mixing different profiles of students

It became obvious for us to continue being involved by founding an association that’s by and for students. It’s often easier to reach young people when the initiative comes from a student association rather than the administration.

writer

Christine Pestel

Communications Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

How Do Business Schools Welcome and Include Students with Disabilities? | The Example of HEC Paris

How Do Business Schools Welcome and Include Students with Disabilities? | The Example of HEC Paris

Students training to be tomorrow's managers and entrepreneurs

How Do Business Schools Welcome and Include Students with Disabilities? | The Example of HEC Paris

Being ranked as one of the best business schools in the world, HEC Paris in France is committed to highlighting the diversity of its students, including students with disabilities. Thanks to Cécile Marty’s insight, disability referent at HEC Paris, we can have a look at all the actions put in place by this business school all along the academic careers of students and faculty staff. These actions aim at meeting the identified needs of students with disabilities and at the same time at training tomorrow’s leaders to favor diversity and inclusion in our society.

 

HEC Paris is a prestigious and world famous business school. Can you tell us about its politics towards students with disabilities?

The Disability Program for Learners for students with disabilities was officially launched in 2019. But a lot of initiatives were already in place on campus which means that we’ve mostly worked in coherence with students, candidates and graduates with disabilities concerning our actions.

Therefore, we decided to characterize this program according to students with disabilities’ classic academic careers, regardless of the chosen curriculum: before, during and after studying at our business school. (You can find more details on the Disability Program for Learners.)

Simultaneously, this issue being connected to medical secrecy, we’ve undertaken a necessary GDPR compliance (General Data Protection Regulation) launching an external communication campaign, a dedicated and intern web page and an Intranet page. 

The strong point of our actions focuses on raising disability awareness in our campus community. In order to succeed, we work closely with the disability referent dedicated to HEC Paris’ faculty staff and the student association on disability. We decided to concentrate on microawareness among our administrative body which deals with students, whether it concerns our admissions or academic affairs offices. The implicit idea is to enable students or candidates to feel comfortable enough to open a dialogue with the faculty member of their choosing. This whole network enables me, with the students’ consent, to start a constructive dialogue on the necessary pedagogical or extracurricular on-campus accommodations. Our medical center also plays a huge part in our program thanks to our doctors and nurses. They do a great job in conveying downward information to students in a difficult situation and upward information to the disability referents in order to make the adequate support easier.

More wide-ranging awareness actions also took place and will continue to do so in a near future in order to alert our students, tomorrow’s managers, on disability and inclusion. The goal is to provide them with the keys of comprehension and integration regarding disability.

 

Let’s say I have a disability, what would my course look like before and after my admission at HEC Paris?

The dedicated web page on our disability program enables any potential candidate to find practical information on the type of support we provide plus a phone number or an email address to start a personal and confidential dialogue with us. This way, we regularly receive candidates to talk about their application and lift the psychological barriers regarding their disability. We also decided not to ask questions on the potential situations of disabilities on our application platforms. Besides, information on disability profiles gathered by our BCE (Banque Commune d’Épreuves) remains confidential. Every candidate can have an open dialogue about the different disability profiles either on the platforms open to students on which we published practical and operational information or via the intermediary of our admissions offices. 

 

Would I benefit from any personalized support according to my disability profile?

We cannot speak in terms of personalized support. However, we provide each student with disabilities with the opportunity to confidentially and individually meet with a disability referent at the beginning of the academic year. This first meeting permits to establish a constructive dialogue. Different measures can be implemented (more time for exams, adapted pedagogical documents, a sign language interpreter, scholarships…) and new appointments can take place during the year depending on everybody’s needs and wishes. Throughout the year, we receive propositions regarding disabilities from our partners. All these propositions are systematically communicated to the students who declare to have a disability.

 

HEC Paris has an international branch. Is the course for students with disabilities the same wherever they study?

Indeed, HEC Paris has a branch in Doha, Qatar. The disability program also applies to students with disabilities who attend there. We can provide remote support.

 

What barriers do you encounter regarding disability on campus?

Whatever the context may be, it’s still difficult to talk about disability. We encounter the usual barriers. I still hear (although it’s less frequent) “But there aren’t any students with disabilities on campus.” The educational dimension is more important than never and I constantly remind people that only 2% of people with disabilities use wheelchairs and that 80% of the declared disabilities are not visible. We also encounter psychological barriers from potential candidates who fear that their disability will prevent them from being admitted to our business school. I keep reminding them that discrimination towards people with disabilities is punished by law and that all the energy they spend in counterbalancing the difficulties they meet regarding their disability actually represents a major asset for their application.

 

What’s your wish for 2021 and the following years to come?

I wish for this program to grow and lift all barriers. I wish an honest and open dialogue was put in place to make the academic careers of students with disabilities, both at HEC Paris and at all academic institutions, easier. I also wish for disability awareness on campuses to improve so that all students can turn into socially responsible managers and for students with disabilities to be more easily included in the professional world.

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About HEC Paris

Specializing in education and research in management sciences, HEC Paris offers a complete and unique range of academic programs for the leaders of tomorrow: the Grande Ecole program, Specialized Masters and MSc, Summer School programs, the MBA, Executive MBA and TRIUM Global Executive MBA programs, the Ph.D. program and a wide range of programs for executives and managers.

Founded in 1881 by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry, HEC Paris has a full-time faculty of 140 professors, 4,500 students and 8,000 managers in executive education programs every year.  

Read our article The Trailblazers of College Accessibility in the United States for more examples  of solutions on including students with disabilities.

Photo credits: © Aurélia Blanc

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A group of students sitting on the grass at HEC Paris

The strong point of our actions focuses on raising disability awareness in our campus community. In order to succeed, we work closely with the disability referent dedicated to HEC Paris’ faculty staff and the student association on disability.

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Christine Pestel

Communications Manager

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