Portrait Hajer Srihi



Actually a doctoral student in automatic control, Hajer Srihi received the Thierry Célérier Femmes et Sciences national prize last November for her work on "Stability strategies in sitting in people with spinal cord injury." Earlier in 2022, she had already been honored by receiving the prize for the best paper at the Handicap congress organized by the Institut Fédératif de Recherche sur les Aides Techniques pour personnes Handicapées (IFRATH), and from 2021 the prize for the regional day of doctoral students in automation in Compiègne. A great record of achievement for this hard worker who enjoys being always the first to arrive and the last to leave the LAMIH UMR CNRS 8201, her laboratory of attachment.
A look back at the career path of this brilliant student who intends to be a teacher-researcher and to use her daily life as a person with reduced mobility to create applications/technical solutions for people with disabilities. She also supports the image of the woman scientist in particular the woman in situation of disability in order to modify this state of consciousness combining gender and disability where the double system of inequality is present. 

What is your background in the institution?

After engineering studies in Tunisia, I arrived in France in 2017 as part of a double degree ENSIAME (now INSA Hauts-de-France)/ENIM. I graduated as an engineer in mechatronics and manager in business administration (IAE Valenciennes). It was important for me to have this double hat to apprehend a scientific project in its entirety: the engineering science part but also the human and managerial aspect. It is very complementary.

As a person with a disability, have you encountered any difficulties in completing your studies?

When you arrive in a new country, you don't know the language, the laws, the traditions, the administration, the people very well. I had to adapt to a new life. This is not easy enough for an able-bodied person, but it is even more difficult for a person with a disability. But I received a lot of support and help, especially from the university's disability relay. The personalized care I received was a determining factor in getting me to where I am today.

I had follow-up for my personal life: my housing, the creation of a file with the MDPH, the intervention of a human aid, the rights in terms of disability compensation benefit, as well as for my life as a student: my workstation was adapted as well as the entrance to the laboratory. In terms of training, I was on an equal footing with the other students, which was very important to me. I always felt a lot of solidarity, including during the health crisis. Isolated but not alone, I was well surrounded.

What would you say to students who are reluctant to pursue higher education because of their disability?

I would say that you have to dare, imagine and undertake, it's not impossible. You just need to have a lot of patience and perseverance. You also have to know how to talk about your problems, be frank and say what you can't do. Verbalize when you need help or support to do something, don't be ashamed to ask for help. Devices exist, we must use them. People are qualified at the university to take care of the different situations of handicap, they are very competent, very responsible and each file is personalized and confidential.

I would like to be a good example that would perhaps motivate students who do not dare to talk about their disability or put themselves aside. I sincerely invite them not to be afraid to face society, university life, academic life, to come out of the circle of isolation. The university is their universe to make their disability a strength. Disability is not just an obstacle, it is also a human diversity and an important element of community fabric.