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  Ashley Introduces ABISS at Queen's Park

"Good morning everyone.  My name is Ashley and I would like to thank you for welcoming us here this morning and to thank OTLA for organizing this breakfast.

I am a member of ABISS which stands for Acquired Brain Injury Survivor Solutions.  We are a group advocating for the rights of individuals with brain injuries to be able to access auto insurance benefits that they have paid for, deserve, and need.

Our small group originally came together as a social group organized by our amazing Speech and Language Pathologist Sheila.  It was meant to be a place fro those living with traumatic brain injuries to come and  relearn, or practice social and simple conversational skills.

We are a very diverse group yet so many of our stories of insurer mistreatment are the same.  At the worst moments of our lives, after sustaining brain injuries in car crashes, we were mad to fight to be treated with the most basic of human decency.

Sheila realized that if we really wanted to encourage change we had to put a story to each and every number.  She knew that people needed to hear our stories and that they needed to be clear, concise, and compelling.  She also knew that most of us struggled with at least one of those in practice.  So, Linda, a professional storyteller, came and encouraged us to go home and write our own stories to share at the next meeting. It was then that we decided to include our stories in information booklets.

We thought that sending out the booklets would get us some response, hopefully from an MPP or 2 looking to help us out somehow.  I don't think any of us were prepared for what came next.  We were contacted by FAIR, OTLA, Ontario Rehab Alliance and OBIA and I'm sure I'm missing more than a few on that list.  Although each of these organizations may have become involved in this process for very different reasons, we all have the same objective.... the Auto Insurance System NEEDS to change.

That was when we were approached about doing videos.  Initially there was a collective "Nope. Not happening!! response from everyone around the table.  Writing our stories anonymously was one thing.  Putting ourselves out there for people to judge was something else entirely.

I don't think I can truly express how hard that was for us.  We had just spent years with strangers looking into every single corner of our lives, leaving no stone unturned, looking for anything that could be used against us, and judging us.  Every step forward and moment of success was held against us as evidence of our "fraud".  Although every one of us in ABISS had medically diagnosed brain injuries with hospital stays and stacks of medical files to back that up, we were made to feel like criminals.  Most of us were being watched by private detectives hired by the insurers.  We lost our privacy.  We were sent for countless duplicate assessments.  Our requests for rehabilitation services were frequently denied.  We decided to do the video so that no one else is put through what we were.

That led to the making of our documentary film, Adding Insult to Injury.  Our hope is that some of you come away with the understanding of what an unjust system this is.

We hope that you understand why we felt compelled to open ourselves up again to make the system better. 

Imagine how you would want the system to work for you, or someone you love, if the need ever arose.

We hope you leave with a desire to help us change the auto insurance system from combative to supportive. "

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