Tips for Job Descriptions

If your job description doesn’t meet NCIL’s standards, you may be asked to revise it before it’s posted. NCIL recommends that all organizations periodically review their job descriptions to ensure that they employ best practices and do not discriminate.


The description should provide:

  • Job title
  • Posting date and application deadline
  • Essential functions of the job
  • Candidate qualifications
  • How to apply, including how to request accommodations in the application process

Essential Functions

Are the essential functions listed in your job description actually essential to the job? Essential functions are the basic job duties an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides some helpful information on how to determine whether a function is essential.

Factors to consider in determining if a function is essential include:

  • whether the reason the position exists is to perform that function,
  • the number of other employees available to perform the function or among whom the performance of the function can be distributed, and
  • the degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function.

Reasonable Accommodations

Include proactive statements, like a statement that accommodations will be provided to ensure candidates can participate in the application process and perform the functions of the job.

Job Requirements

The requirements for your open position should be linked to the essential functions of the job. Keep in mind that just because a job has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be done. One of the great things about the disability community is creativity. Focus more on what has to be done than on how you expect to see it done.

Requiring effective oral/verbal communication

Do you need someone who is able to communicate effectively? Boilerplate language often states that the applicant must be able to communicate orally or verbally. That language implies that people with disabilities who communicate using interpreters, augmentative and alterative communication (AAC), and other modes of communication are not welcome to apply. If the job requires someone who can communicate effectively, revise your job description to reflect that. Instead of, “Applicant must have excellent written and verbal communication skills,” simply say, “Applicant must have excellent communications skills”.

Requiring a driver’s license or car

Does the job actually require a driver’s license or car, or only that someone is able to travel frequently? Think about who these requirements rule out, such as blind people, people with epilepsy, and people with numerous other types of disability who cannot or do not drive. Unless it’s actually required, instead of, “Applicant must have valid driver’s license and own mode of transportation,” say, “Applicant must be able to travel throughout the organization’s service area”.

Lifting requirements

Does the job actually involve manual labor as part of its essential functions? Can that requirement be accommodated? Think about the people this requirement rules out.

Requiring unnecessary degrees, licenses, or certifications

Requiring unnecessary degrees for positions in the Independent Living Movement effectively excludes many people with disabilities who could be a great fit for a Center for Independent Living (CIL) or (SILC). If you feel strongly that experience in a specific field would benefit the position, be clear that relevant experience can be substituted for a specific degree. This will widen your applicant pool and help you find the right person for the job. This applies to leadership and managerial positions as well as non-supervisory positions.

All of these examples are reasonable in some circumstances. For example, if the open position is for a driver, then requiring a driver’s license would be valid.