Hannah Aylward and Shane Burcaw believe their story would help make the lives of other couples in a similar situation better.
Ever since Hannah Aylward and Shane Burcaw began dating, people have been making outrageously false assumptions about the nature of their relationship. The interabled couple, who went on to exchange marital vows, has sadly been on the receiving end of mean and ableist comments questioning their relationship. "Many people have never seen a relationship like ours before, where one individual lives with a physical disability and the other does not," explained Burcaw, who has a genetic disorder called spinal muscular atrophy, in an article for TODAY. "Our goal in sharing our lives with the world is to help normalize interabled relationships, to show people that our love is just as exciting, fulfilling, and real as any other." To that end, the pair have been documenting their everyday lives on YouTube through their famous channel Squirmy and Grubs.
Having tied the knot last September after four years of dating, Aylward and Burcaw have been highlighting the realities of their relationship and believe their efforts would help make the lives of other couples in a similar situation better. "Hannah and I are not special. As our YouTube channel has grown, hundreds, if not thousands of couples in similar situations have reached out to us," shared Burcaw. "It turns out, people with disabilities are in fact still human, with emotional wants and needs like everyone else." He added, "We hear from interabled 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?'"
A few years ago Aylward was featured in an Inside Edition article and even then she spoke out about the misconceptions that people had about her relationship with Burcaw. "When we go out in public, people never think I'm his girlfriend," she explained in 2019. "I'm always assumed to be his sister, or his mom, or his nurse. And they'll talk down to him. So we were just sort of tired of that happening and wanted to tell people about it." Sharing how their love story began, the couple revealed that they actually met online after Aylward saw a YouTube video of Burcaw being interviewed about his disability. Soon, she reached out to him via email, which Burcaw described as "a little flirty."
In no time, the two found themselves invested in a long-distance relationship and after two years Burcaw moved to Minneapolis to live with Alyward who was about to finish college. Today, they are married and are more sure than ever about being life-long teammates. They say this realization has helped them overlook mean comments that come their way. Following their Zoom wedding last year, Aylward told PEOPLE, "Getting mean comments is nothing new. 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." Despite these negative comments, the pair is content as they know Burcaw's disability does not make him any less of a valuable partner to her.
"I think there's this underlying perception in society that people with disabilities are not worthy or valuable as romantic partners," he shared. "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." Agreeing with this, Alyward said, "When we see terrible comments, we remember that we're the ones that know the truth. We know our relationship better than anyone so that just makes it easier to just ignore the people that are being mean, and remember that it's just about us." When it comes to expanding their family, the couple says they are just not ready yet. "We totally want to have kids, [but] we're not quite ready yet," expressed Alyward. "We go back and forth. Like one week we’re like, 'We're ready!' And then the next week we're like, 'Why did we ever think we were ready?'" Burcaw chimed in.
Cover image source: Instagram | Shane Burcaw