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Inter-abled couple break down disability stigma with YouTube channel

January 2019

A disabled man and his non-disabled girlfriend have used their popular YouTube channel to help dispel the stigma surrounding their relationship.

Shane Burcaw who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and uses a wheelchair, and Hannah Aylward have been together for three years.

The couple began their YouTube channel six months ago and have gained a huge following on the social media platform now broadcasting to more than 166,000 subscribers (and counting). The intro to their channel reads: ‘Once upon a time, a boy with no muscles fell madly in love with a beautiful girl who had plenty of muscle to spare. The townsfolk gasped with horror at the sight of their disgusting inter-abled relationship, but they didn’t care.’

In one of their popular videos, Shane said: “I just really want to dispel the idea that Hannah is locked here in the apartment with her nurse scrubs on taking care of me…it’s not like that. We both have our own lives and that’s what’s cool about our relationship. We are just supporting each other in our own lives and then doing stuff together as well.”

Hannah adds that when people see them in public, they assume she is Shane’s carer. She said: “Strangers assume I’m not his girlfriend. When people at a restaurant see us acting like a couple, people have come up and been like ‘this just warms my heart, this is so beautiful.’”

When asked about the motivation for setting up their YouTube channel, Shane said; “It came from the annoyance at how people out in the public are so rude about my disability and our relationship. People will talk slowly to me – they always assume I’m a child, and even when they learn that I’m an adult that can talk, they still direct everything to Hannah as if I can’t make decisions.”

“So I think our purpose…was to just show the world that having a relationship with someone that has a physical disability is not like this bizarre impossible thing. It’s very normal.”

Following their successful YouTube channel, the couple have been inundated with positive comments and in particular they’ve received solidarity from other inter-abled couples who identify with the issues they discuss in their videos.

See Shane and Hannah’s YouTube channel, Squirmy and Grubs, here.