Shane Burcaw, 26, was born with neuromuscular disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and fell in love with Hannah Aylward, 25, three years ago after Hannah watched a documentary about Shane’s life and decided to reach out to him.
However, the couple’s romance has been called “abnormal” and “disgusting” by trolls, with others often assuming Hannah is Shane’s paid caregiver or relative.
To educate others about their lives together, Aylward and Burcaw created a YouTube channel where they explain the realities of an inter-abled relationship – and have since gained more than 127,000 followers.
“Our goal is to normalise disability and relationships like ours,” Burcaw explained in one of the videos, while Aylward responded to one question about her caretaker duties: “I have a fairly normal life.”
The pair first met after a number of initial text messages and video calls, with Hannah, who studies in college in Minnesota, eventually visiting Shane in Pennsylvania.
They spent four days together and immediately knew they wanted to make it work. Following a long distance relationship, Shane and Hannah moved into a flat in Minnesota together in 2018 so Hannah was able to continue her degree.
Speaking to the Daily Mail about their relationship, Shane said:
“There are a variety of damaging stigmas surrounding disability, but one of the most pervasive ideas is that people with a disability are incapable or unworthy of romantic relationships.
“When Hannah and I are out in public together, strangers routinely assume that we are siblings, or that she is my paid caregiver, or even worse, my mum.”
Although the couple still receive questions and criticism about their relationship from strangers, a significant amount of the feedback to their videos and Instagram has been positive.
“Your relationship inspires me,” one person commented on a photo.
“To me, mental connection and personality are so important, It really seems like you two connect on the deepest level. Thank you for giving me hope!”
Another person said: “I also have SMA and seeing that an actual relationship is possible warms my heart.”
The couple recently answered fans’ questions about how they manage intimacy in their interabled relationship in their latest video.
In the Q&A, Shane quipped his private parts were not proportionate to his small body, and made his beloved burst with laughed as he assured viewers ‘everything down there’ works ‘wonderfully.’
Obviously there’s going to be some people who are critical about them in some way, shape or form, but if they’re using their relationship to break down stigmas around inter-abled relationships, and maintain a good sense of humour too, good for them.
Images via Instagram/YouTube/Facebook
Charismatic, witty, charming, engaging - four things Joshua Rogers will never be. Thankfully, he’s a semi-competent editor, who, after graduating university with two mostly pointless degrees, joined The Hook two years ago. He subsequently honed his writing skills over several features and investigative pieces, arguably letting The Hook audience in on way too much of his personal life.