The Handicap & Talents certificate, an educational tool “made in ESSEC” to promote inclusive management

Launched by Elisabeth Forget ESSEC group disability référent, the Handicap & Talents Certificate aims to train the ESSEC community to face the challenges raised by disability in the workplace and to strengthen their position as an inclusive manager, by following during a month a bilingual French-English program of 12 conferences 100% online.

Sponsored by Professor Junko Takagi, Director of the Leadership and Diversity Chair (author of the article Flip or Whiteboard: What’s your choice?) and Laurent Bibard, Professor of Philosophy and Management (author of two articles on Pedagolab), the Handicap & Talents certification program is structured around 4 themes: philosophy & diversity, legal framework, company disability employment policies & innovations and testimonials.

Since 2021, the certificate has been opened to students from CY Alliance schools, thanks a new partnership agreement.

Read the article in French

On the occasion of the launch of the 2023 edition, Laurent Bibard, sponsor since 2015, answered our questions.

Why did you agree to be the sponsor of the Handicap & Talents certificate?

Laurent Bibard (LB): I am mindful about the vulnerabilities of others. Everyone has their own limits and can find themselves in a vulnerable state. Indeed, anyone can suddenly become vulnerable, including people indifferent to that issue. In these cases, the vulnerability is never having been prepared for… being vulnerable. Moreover, supporting this certification at ESSEC is a way to support the action of this institution. ESSEC has always been careful not to deal only with management and business issues, but also to take people into consideration. There is a truly humane culture at ESSEC.

In 2020, your subject was “Disability and Sense of Presence”, in 2021 “What does the current crisis teach us about our relationship to Disability”, in 2022 “Disability as an opportunity”, in 2023 “There is no issue with inclusion”: today, should we still speak about disability or rather taking difference into account?

LB: Recognizing differences matters because we are different from each other. An individual is a totally irreducible point of view on the world, no two individuals are the same. Stating “there is no issue with inclusion” is wrong: there is, in fact, an issue. The origin of the word “Handicap”, “hand-in-cap”, comes from the way in which some participants in a game were compensated so as not to wrong them against others better equipped. In this case, the game and its rules are taken for granted and one is given a « handicap » in the game. But perhaps the problem stems from the game and not from the participants. How to ensure the game no longer involves “hand-in-cap”? Let’s take an example: profit maximization, a person can be very good at this game and weed out those who are not. On such a basis, one can problematize the question of inclusion by asking not how to include people in the game, but rather by reversing the point of view and asking whether this game is the one to play. The current crises (Covid, climate, Ukraine, etc.) are alerting us to this.

To date, more than 1,000 students and 70 staff members have obtained their Handicap & Talents certificate at ESSEC. There are 235 registrations for the 2023 edition, all on a voluntary basis. What do you think?

LB: This is of course very good news. However, I am wary of the fashion effect. “Inclusion” mustn’t be an empty word, we must not do “inclusion washing”. It is crucial indeed to understand what is at stake. Participating without questioning its meaning or purpose can be useless, or even counterproductive.

Have you observed a change in the perception of inclusion and disability issues at ESSEC since the launch of the Handicap & Talents certificate in 2015?

LB: Changes have been made for decades and not specifically over the last 8 years. The change is profound in the new generations: young people are preoccupied about the evolution of the world, the balance between professional and private life, and their relationship to others. It seems to me that since 2010 the concern has been increasing.

These concerns, which have existed for more than 10 years, have not yet produced tangible effects. In the workplace, in companies and organizations, there is a lot of communication and very little real change.

LB: Even if people have their hearts on their sleeves, it is always complicated to express it within the institutions. It is structurally difficult to make it visible. In an institutional situation, things freeze and always risk losing their meaning, due to collective organization. I want to draw your attention to the fact that, just because it is not visible does not mean that there is no genuine concern. As a teacher involved in continuing education, I observe that all profiles increasingly share these concerns for others, for the environment.

What do you think of your exchanges with students during your Handicap & Talents Certificate conferences? What level of mastery and curiosity on the subject do they have?

LB: The conferences last for one hour, it is short to exchange views and ideas. But I see a lot of commitment, as well as a desire to “do good” and “do well”. There is a limit with disability, it is the archaic relationship that we have with this subject, which questions our relationship to vitality. We tend, with people with disabilities, to automatically adopt a protective parent attitude towards an incapable child, which is catastrophic. Self-censorship is internalized. The problem in disability is in the eyes of others. We must constantly relearn how to consider people with disabilities as adults. Assuming that everyone has the capacity to educate themselves, to inform themselves, to participate in the society, has a good chance of actually creating the possibility to do so.


Antoine Gadaud, in charge of the management division of the Centre de Formation des Apprentis (CFA)
“I completed the Handicap & Talents certificate in March 2021 after joining ESSEC’s Centre de Formation des Apprentis (CFA) in September 2020. From a legal perspective, each CFA must have a point of contact in his team to follow-up and support apprentices with disabilities. This is why I registered for the certificate, while still counting, if necessary, on Elisabeth Forget. I was particularly impacted by the opening lecture by the sponsor, Laurent Bibard. Having no particular prior knowledge or experience in supporting students with disabilities, this first lecture changed my perspective on disability, and more particularly on the identification of a disability. Indeed, we have learned that the majority of disabilities are not visible, but also that many people with disabilities do not necessarily wish to declare it.”

Ariane Scheidecker, H14 Alumna
“I participated in the Handicap & Talents certificate in 2020 when I was a member of the ESSEC staff: with the lock-down, all the conferences were held remotely over a month, which allowed me to attend as well as keeping up with my professional obligations. I signed up because I deeply love people management: managing people always means being confronted with extraordinarily rich otherness, diversity and differences. Disability in the workplace has a particular legal framework in France, with the recognition of the status of disabled worker (RQTH) and the 6%: as a manager, you cannot ignore it, it is above all a human and social responsibility, as well as a financial issue. The Handicap & Talents certificate provides training in these areas, by addressing practical aspects: legal, innovations, disability employment policies, but also by allowing to question the existing model through testimonials from people with disabilities on one hand and more conceptual and philosophical conferences on the other hand, such as that of Professor Laurent Bibard, which I particularly appreciated.”

Joseph Darwich, Global BBA student
“Madame Forget told me about the Handicap & Talents certificate during my first visit to her office in March 2022, where I presented myself to explain my situation to her. I am hard of hearing, wearing a hearing aid on both ears and I had just joined ESSEC Global BBA.
I immediately wanted to participate and I even agreed to give my testimony: raising awareness and professionalizing the challenges of disability in the workplace matched perfectly my aspirations, and seeing that there are people who are interested in this question made me truly happy. Indeed, I am Lebanese and I spent my early years in Lebanon, a country where people with disabilities or special needs are not protected by laws and where no measures are taken for their integration. It is true that I was able to follow my school curriculum in an excellent and renowned school but my path was strewn with pitfalls. Because of my difference, I was not accepted either by my comrades or even by certain teachers who wondered what I was doing in a school known to train an “elite”. Therefore, from my teenage years, I’ve set my mind on a mission to help people with disabilities to assert their skills despite their differences. In addition, giving my testimony and telling my story was a kind of outlet for me.“