'Many people have never seen a relationship like ours before, where one individual lives with a physical disability and the other does not,' Burcaw said.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 30, 2021. It has since been updated.
YouTube users Hannah Aylward and Shane Burcaw are all-too familiar with people making wild—and more often than not, untrue—assumptions about their relationship. As an interabled couple who document their everyday life online, they are no strangers to ableist and mean comments questioning the nature of their marriage. "Many people have never seen a relationship like ours before, where one individual lives with a physical disability and the other does not," Burcaw, who has a genetic disorder called spinal muscular atrophy, wrote 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."
The couple—who tied the knot last September after four years of dating—highlight the realities of an interabled relationship through their incredibly popular YouTube channel Squirmy and Grubs. Doing so, they believe, will help make life easier for other couples in similar situations. "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," Burcaw revealed. "It turns out, people with disabilities are in fact still human, with emotional wants and needs like everyone else!"
"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?'" he continued. Speaking to InsideEdition.com a couple of years ago, Aylward revealed that people often have difficulty believing she is in a romantic relationship with Burcaw. "When we go out in public, people never think I'm his girlfriend," she said 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."
The couple revealed that they met online after Aylward saw a YouTube video of Burcaw being interviewed about his disability. She reached out to him via an email Burcaw described as "a little flirty" and soon, the pair found themselves in a long-distance relationship. After two years, Burcaw moved to Minneapolis to live with Aylward who was finishing up her college education. Now married, they're surer than ever that they're teammates for life—a realization they say helps them stave off mean comments.
Speaking to PEOPLE after their Zoom wedding last year, Aylward said: "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." Burcaw explained that despite being bombarded with such comments that underly ableism, both he and his new wife are content in knowing that his 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 said.
"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," Burcaw added. "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," Aylward chimed in. The couple revealed that they also have plans of expanding their family with children; just not yet. "We totally want to have kids, [but] we're not quite ready yet," Aylward said, to which Burcaw added: "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?'"