Couple tackle disability ‘misconceptions’ with YouTube channel

‘Once you get past the wheelchair and the caregiving, we’re just two people building a happy life together.’

A man with muscular dystrophy and his able-bodied girlfriend are sharing their relationship with the world on YouTube, in the hope of tackling “big misconceptions about disability”.

Shane Burcaw, 26, was born with spinal muscular atrophy and has been using a motorised wheelchair since he was two years old. He lives with his partner Hannah Aylward, 23, a student, and Mr Burcaw’s primary caregiver.

Squirmy and Grubs
Mr Burcaw was born with spinal muscular atrophy (Hannah Aylward/PA)

The couple posted their first YouTube video in June 2018, and have already gathered more than 170,000 subscribers.

Mr Burcaw said: “We created our YouTube, Squirmy and Grubs, to show the world that inter-abled relationships exist, and that they are just as satisfying, fun, and worthwhile as any relationship.

“Hannah is often mistaken as my mom, nurse, or sister, because many people can’t fathom that a beautiful, able-bodied woman like Hannah would ever be romantically involved with a person who uses a wheelchair.

Squirmy and Grubs
The couple hope to tackle ‘big misconceptions’ about disability (Hannah Aylward/PA)

“She is my primary caregiver, so she does everything from lifting me into bed to helping me brush my teeth. We don’t really view these activities as caregiving, but rather, just normal aspects of our day.”

Mr Burcaw and Ms Aylward met in 2016 and were in a long-distance relationship for two years, before moving in together in Minneapolis last year. They told the Press Association: “Once you get past the wheelchair and the caregiving, we’re just two people building a happy life together.”

The pair hope that their videos, including content such as “what are the worst three things about living together?” and “a tour of my wheelchair” will tackle the ignorance surrounding disability.

Mr Burcaw added: “Visibility is key to changing the stigmas that exist around disability in our society.

“Ignorance comes from a lack of experience, and so giving people experiences that show the true story of disability will ultimately change public perception.”