YouTubers Shane Burcaw and Hannah Aylward are often mistaken for anything but a couple by strangers who assume that she is either his nurse, mom, or sister.
Shane Burcaw, 27, and Hannah Aylward, 24, are an inter-abled couple that has been sharing their different life with the world through their YouTube channel Squirmy and Grubs. They have over 855k subscribers and are trying to dismantle the misconception that surrounds their relationship. In their channel description, they have stated: "We've discovered that people find our relationship to be pretty peculiar. One of us has a severe muscle-wasting disease and uses a wheelchair. The other one of us...doesn't. Shane's disability plays a huge role in our relationship, but not in the way that most people expect. Watch us navigate our life together and laugh with us along the way."
The two were dating for four years before tying the knot in September last year. Like many other things that took place virtually, their wedding too was officiated on Zoom by Burcaw’s cousin. They say it was a last-minute decision and all their relatives watched them get married online. “Afterwards, Hannah and I ordered Italian at our favorite takeout place and we had a wonderful takeout dinner,” Burcaw told PEOPLE. “It was a very pandemic-type wedding! Nothing flashy.” Even though the two of them share a happy relationship, they are subject to hate comments online regularly.
“Getting mean comments is nothing new," Aylward stated. "I thought that once we were married people would be like, ‘Oh, they’re for real.' Because we would get comments saying, ‘This is fake, it’s for publicity,’ or, ‘She’s using him for money or a YouTube channel,’ or whatever.” Burcaw explains that these comments mainly come from underlying ableism. “I think there’s this underlying perception in society that people with disabilities are not worthy or valuable as romantic partners,” he says. “And in our case… that is not true. And so we’re just trying to show people that our life is normal and silly and fun and disability is a part of it in the ignorance we face, but it doesn’t inhibit our life.”
Further, he wrote on TODAY about how often the two are mistaken for anything but a couple by strangers who assume that Aylward is either his nurse, mom, sister, or his babysitter. "Because of the widespread and deeply-ingrained misconceptions about disability, people tend to see me as a child, or as someone who could not possibly be involved in a romantic relationship," he reiterated. "Hannah and I were once checking out at a liquor store when the cashier said to Hannah: 'Does this big guy want a lollipop?' I spoke up and said, 'Nope, just the beer. Thank you, sir.'"
Many others in inter-abled relationships have reached out to them because of their YouTube channel. "It turns out, people with disabilities are in fact still human, with emotional wants and needs like everyone else! We hear from inter-abled couples every day, and the common theme of these messages is simple, yet profound: 'Our relationship feels so normal! Why can’t the rest of the world see that?'" he wrote. They are normalizing what it is like to be an inter-abled couple who also have the same problems as other couples where they fight, make up, and take care of each other because they love each other.
The couple also wants to have children but is not ready yet. Burcaw also clarified, "Many of our viewers have wrongly assumed that, by being with me, Hannah is signing up for a life of childless celibacy. This idea is far from the truth. We have a satisfying intimate life, and both of us are interested in having children together down the road. Unless Hannah is also a carrier of the genetic traits that cause spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), our children will not have the disease. If she is a carrier, our children will have a 50/50 chance of having SMA. Either way, I cannot wait to pull our kids around in a wagon attached to the back of my wheelchair."