Accommodations for illness or extenuating circumstances

As a student, you may encounter situations such as significant illnesses, ongoing medical conditions, or other circumstances that prevent you from meeting academic obligations. 

The Accommodations section of the Undergraduate Calendar will provide an overview for accommodation. Stay informed regarding current information and guidance on COVID-19.

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How to declare an absence:

Students have the following three options for declaring an absence. Students are expected to notify their instructor(s) before or within 24 hours of the missed course element.

  1. Short-term Absence - an absence of 2 calendar days or less during the Formal Lecture Period self-declared for any reason that prevents a student from meeting their academic obligations, with the exception of Laboratory (LAB) and Clinic (CLN) courses/class components (LAB and CLN courses/class components do not qualify for accommodation as a result of a self-declared short-term absence)
  2. Covid-19-related Absence - an absence of 10 days or less due to Covid-10 related illness, with some limitations (below).
  3. Submitting a Verification of Illness form. 

False claims constitute an academic offence that will result in disciplinary action under Policy 71 (Student Discipline).

For absences that are not COVID 19-related, or which do not otherwise fall in the categories above, obtain a Verification of Illness Form (VIF) for other conditions and follow the instructions below for submission of a VIF and/or supporting documentation.

Who should use this VIF submission process?

  • Undergraduate students from the Faculty of Arts who are taking courses

If you are an undergraduate student from the Faculty of Science, EngineeringEnvironmentHealth or Math, please refer to your home Faculty's process for VIF submissions.

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Submitting a Verification of Illness Form (VIF) and/or other supporting documentation

Documentation must be uploaded and submitted by the student to the Verification of Illness or Extenuating Circumstances intake formDocuments cannot be emailed or delivered in person. You will need to be logged in to your UWaterloo account to access the form.

If a meeting is needed to discuss the situation, it must be held virtually via Microsoft Teams. If you have any questions, concerns, or issues with this online process, please email

After obtaining and submitting your VIF, the Arts Undergraduate Office will review your submission. We will contact you to confirm whether or not we have processed your VIF, so please check your email often. In the event that we need to ask you for clarification on the details of your VIF, it is important that you respond promptly to avoid delays in your accommodation.

Following Policy 46, advisors in the AUO cannot engage in the detailed discussions that are required with anyone but the student. 

Multiple VIFs submitted for a term could result in a meeting with the Manager of Advising to discuss and resolve barriers to academic success.

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Completing the Verification of Illness form

In order to receive accommodation for a missed assessment, you must obtain a Verification of Illness Form that has been filled out by a physician. The Verification of Illness Form is used by instructors to make accommodation decisions for missed mandatory assessments (labs, quizzes, midterms, final exams, etc.). Instructors will consider VIFs filled out and issued by the University of Waterloo's Campus Wellness Services (Health Services and Counselling Services), when this service is open.

If a VIF from Campus Wellness is not possible, then request your primary health care provider or practitioner to fill out a VIF for you. 

Ideally, the following information will be included:

  • date of practitioner assessment
  • dates of illness
  • degree of incapacitation
  • whether the diagnosis was made by practitioner or based on a description by student
  • practitioner information (including registration number) and/or official or verified clinic/specialist information

The above information is important to instructors who need clear guidance on making accommodation decisions. If any information is missing, accommodation decisions will usually be delayed because the student will need to have physician complete missing information.

The University of Waterloo Verification of Illness Form should be used where possible. To speed the submission authentication process, please have your primary health care provider puts their stamp/embossment on the document which includes their address and phone number.

Degree of Incapacitation

The VIF indicates the determination by a care provider (normally a physician) of the degree of incapacitation for a given period of time. Instructors will determine what accommodation, if any, they will provide. When making these decisions, instructors may consider VIF information (i.e., date; incapacitation severity and period) or the circumstances; and the student’s actions (i.e., when the student notified the instructor and submitted the VIF/other supporting documents to the Arts Undergraduate Office). The course outline should provide guidance regarding how missed course elements are normally addressed.

Students must discuss the VIF-specified degree of incapacitation with their instructors so that their actions are not misinterpreted or viewed with suspicion. For example:

  • A ‘severe’ incapacitation indicates students are unable to attend class and engage in most academic studies during the period indicated. If they attend classes/labs, submit assignments/reports or write tests/exams during this period, they are at risk of being accused of “misrepresentation”; a Policy 71 academic offence.

Instructors have the authority to determine whether a VIF indicating "moderate" incapacitation will be accommodated. Students should review their course outline to see if any guidance is provided. In the absence of stated course rules, students should consider the following:

  • Tests and exams are not to be written during the incapacitation period of a "moderate" VIF
  • Misconduct/misrepresentation will not normally be alleged if a student inconsistently participates in other course elements such as assignments, quizzes, labs, and lecture attendance/participation during the VIF "moderate" incapacitation period.

Submitting VIF for Illness

  1. Contact the course instructor (e.g. by email) before or within 24 hours of a test, exam or due date, AND
  2. Submit the completed Verification of Illness Form within 48 hours of the missed course element, if they are well enough to do so. VIFs are not accepted in person or by email.
  3. Once the VIF has been registered with the AUO, students must email their instructor(s) to discuss their situation. 
    • Students whose illness delays them submitting a VIF should communicate via email or phone to avoid delays or difficulties with accommodation decisions. Students should also refer to course outlines for course-specific information or requirements and review the Incomplete (INC) grade process below for more information.
    • Students should be aware that when a VIF is registered in the AUO, all of their instructors will be notified.

Submitting documentation for other extenuating circumstances

Authentication of Documentation

Authentication of documentation is part of this process. If evidence of misrepresentation or fraudulent or falsified documentation is found, it will be reported per Policy 71 (Student Discipline) to the associate dean of your faculty or designate. Documents will be sent to the associate dean for further investigation.

If any information is missing, accommodation decisions will usually be delayed because the student will need to have their health care provider complete the missing information.

 If you have been absent from classes for two weeks or longer, whether by illness or extenuating circumstances, you should follow-up with your individual instructors and your academic advisor to assess whether completing your classes is still viable. 

If you have a known (or suspected) disability, medical condition, injury, or have experienced trauma, you can explore what academic accommodations may be available to support you through AccessAbility Services

If you have experienced extenuating circumstances during the term, you may consider filing a petition, and can further discuss your petition options with your academic advisor. 

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Religious observances

Students should refer to the Accommodations sections of the Undergraduate Calendar and note that they must consult their instructor(s) within two weeks of the announcement of the due date. There is no submission of documentation.

Instructors should refer to available resources on this topic, which includes dates of major religious observances. The Equity Office is available to instructors if they have any questions about an accommodation request.
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Incomplete (INC) grade process 

The Incomplete (INC) grade process begins when students contact their course instructors to discuss an INC grade as a possibility. This discussion with the instructor addresses the student’s circumstances, supporting documentation, missed or unfinished course elements, and the student’s engagement in the course up to that point in the term. 

Failure to write scheduled make-up tests or submit outstanding course work by the end of the instructor-specified lapse period will result in a final course grade being posted to Quest that is the earned grade, based on all completed course element(s). If the course outline specifies that the missing coursework is required to pass the course, the lesser of the earned grade or 4% less than the passing grade will be posted to Quest. 

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