How this inter-abled couple is defying relationship norms

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Shane Burcaw and Hannah Aylaward are your average couple - they watch movies, travel overseas, go out to eat, cook together and argue.

There’s just one minor detail that separates them from most couples in their 20s: Shane, 27, has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair to get around.

Hannah, 23, took on the role of being Shane’s caregiver when they moved into their own place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a year ago after dating long-distance for two years.

And despite common belief, they function just as any other healthy, loving and romantic relationship would, with the bonus of additional “bonding” moments.

They met online three years ago and after two years living in separate states, they decided to cut out their inevitable “looming goodbyes” and move in together.

Shane and Hannah shown together in Poland and posing for a poolside selfie. Source: Instagram/hannahayl

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia, the couple, who share the YouTube channel Squirmy and Grubs, detailed how their love story began.

“One night during the end of a semester at college, Hannah was avoiding her studies by watching YouTube when she came across a documentary about Shane.

“The documentary chronicled Shane’s life, his disability, and his work as a writer. Charmed by his humour, Hannah decided to look up his popular blog—Laughing At My Nightmare—and from there she found his email and sent him a quick hello.”

They “struck up a conversation” and kept in contact using email, text and FaceTime, and “the rest is history”.

“In the first few weeks of knowing each other, we began to FaceTime for hours each day. It was in those wonderful first hours together over the phone that we realised there was a real connection,” they said.

The couple have lived together for a year, and just got engaged. Source: Instagram/hannahayl

“We laughed endlessly. We made each other think. Even the silent moments together felt beautiful.”

Now that they share a home, they face the same struggles others in a relationship would be all too familiar with, like what to eat for dinner and watch on Netflix.

Other than that, “the caregiving activities fell seamlessly into our daily schedules”.

“We just moved out of our first apartment and we are actively looking for our first real home. It has been so exciting!,” they said.

‘We have bad days too’

Their relationship is just like any other when it comes to the cringey romantic side of things as well.

“We have mutual interests, we are intimate, we travel, and we support each other. We also bicker, argue, and have bad days too.

“Hannah is not a saint for dating me, and our relationship is not a difficult one because of my disease. We are just two young people in love, and one of us happens to use a wheelchair.”

There’s no shortage of fun and exciting ways the couple can share experiences together either, given their mutual love of food and travel.

Shane and Hannah in position to film a video, and during a holiday to Poland. Source: Instagram/shaneburcaw

“We love traveling and exploring new places together. We also love eating, so we’re constantly on the lookout for new places to eat or recipes to cook together.

“But most often we just cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie—with plenty of snacks on hand.”

While Shane’s condition sets them apart in a pretty minuscule way, the couple often come up against judgemental members of the public.

‘We’re happy and normal’

“Society still holds many horrible misconceptions about disability that we are faced with on a daily basis on our YouTube channel.

“People think Shane is worthless, and they infantilise him simply because he can’t walk. With those stigmas in mind, people have a hard time understanding that our relationship is happy and normal.

“We are working hard to show the world that inter-abled relationships are just as fun, love-filled, and exciting as any other.”

Earlier this year the couple got engaged, and they are hoping to have children in the future.

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