Accommodations for illness or extenuating circumstances

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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Self-Declaration on Quest 

You can self-declare an absence on Quest for pandemic-related reasons or short-term reasons. Self-declarations do not require supporting documentation.

A self-declaration on Quest is its own absence category, neither moderate nor severe, as described below. Options are:

  • Short-term absence - up to 48 hours, no documentation required, not retroactive, and a maximum of one per term during the formal lecture period.
  • Pandemic-related absence - no in-person course activity is permitted. Participation in online course elements may be reasonable, and any participation needs to be consistent across all courses. No documentation is required.

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

For absences that are not pandemic-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.

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Verification of Illness Form 

Student Responsibilities:

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.

After you obtain your VIF, please submit it to and someone from the Dean's Office will review your submission. We will contact you to confirm that we have processed your VIF, so please check your uWaterloo 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.

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 you cannot access Campus Wellness Services, whether it is open or closed, these are your options:

If a VIF from Campus Wellness is not possible, then request your primary healthcare provider or practitioner to fill out a VIF for you. The following information must be included:

  • date of physician assessment,
  • dates of illness,
  • degree of incapacitation,
  • whether the diagnosis was made by physician or based on a description by student,
  • physician information (including CPSO registration number).

The University of Waterloo Verification of Illness Form can be used but ensure your primary health care provider puts their stamp/embossment on the document which includes their address and phone number.

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

If your healthcare provider is not a physician, the following information must be included:

  • date of assessment,
  • date range of and degree of incapacitation,
  • official or verified clinic/specialist information (including practitioner registration number).

The above information is important to instructors who need clear guidance on making accommodation decisions.

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Degree of incapacitation (severe or moderate)

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 Dean's 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 engage in any 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”; an academic offence, which carries a severe penalty that normally includes suspension.

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.

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

Documentation must be submitted by the student to If you have any questions, concerns, or issues with this process, please email

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

Multiple VIFs submitted for a term could result in a meeting with the Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies to discuss and resolve barriers to academic success.

Who should use this VIF submission process?

  • Undergraduate students from the Faculty of Health who are currently taking courses.

If you are an undergraduate student from the Faculty of Arts, Engineering, Environment, Math or Science, please refer to your Faculty for their VIF submission process.


  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 you are well enough to do so:

Email a PDF or high quality photo of documentation to Include your full name, student ID number and the graded course work you have missed.

3. Once the VIF has been registered with the Dean's Office, you will receive confirmation, and your instructors will be notified automatically. 

  1. 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.
  2. Students should be aware that when a VIF is registered in the Dean's Office, all of their Health (i.e., course subjects) instructors will be notified.


  1. Gather supporting documentation. The supporting documentation will be considered in a similar manner to a VIF. Official documentation is necessary before any action can be taken. Examples are: plane/train/bus tickets, court documents, police reports, death certificates/obituaries/letters from funeral directors, counsellor letters.
  2. Contact your instructor(s) notifying them of the situation, AND
  3. Email a PDF or high quality photo of supporting documents to, when able to do so. Include your full name, student ID number, dates you've been experiencing these extenuating circumstances and all graded course work you have missed during those days. 
  4. Come to an agreement with your instructor regarding how any missed mandatory class, lab, assignment, test or exam will be addressed.

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Other extenuating circumstances

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. 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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