Disability charities have criticised the decision by Scope not to reserve its £140,000-a-year chief executive post for disabled candidates.
The charity's current chief executive, Jon Sparkes, announced last month that he will leave in November.
Alice Maynard, chair of the organisation, told Third Sector: "We want to invite applications from a diverse talent pool, so we are not saying the role will be open only to disabled people. Our priority is to find the right person for the job, and that person may or may not be disabled.
"Our aim is to create an alliance between disabled people and non-disabled people, so it isn't essential to have a disabled chief executive. But we have asked our recruitment consultants to make sure they think in the broadest possible way and to look in non-obvious places for candidates."
Amarjit Raju, chief executive of user-run disability charity Disability Direct, told Third Sector: "The disability movement is increasingly about disabled people running their own groups, and Scope should be setting an example here.
"Scope has traditionally had business executives running the show, and a tokenistic approach to employing disabled people. It would benefit greatly from a disabled chief executive."
Mary Colley, voluntary coordinator of learning difficulties charity Danda, said she could not understand why Scope would not restrict the role to disabled candidates. "It would be difficult for a non-disabled chief executive to understand the needs of disabled people," she said. "There are plenty of very capable disabled people who would do a good job of running the charity."
A spokeswoman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said positive discrimination was unlawful. But she said there was a caveat in the law that allowed for reserved posts, which would permit Scope to reserve the post of chief executive for disabled candidates.