Josh Appel/Unsplash
Josh Appel/Unsplash

Podcaster Spotlight: Squirmy and Grubs

Squirmy and Grubs, excuse me, Hannah and Shane, have been working in the disability and accessibility space for a long time. Way back in 2011, Shane Burcaw began a blog: Laughing at My Nightmare. When that gained traction, he and his cousin Sarah founded a charity of the same name, and over the years thish as provided over $900,000 in equipment to change lives not just of people with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which Burcaw lives with, but for many other disabilities as well. 

Hannah’s relationship with Shane has been subject to expressions of many people’s ignorance towards disability, caregiving, and love

Burcaw has also written three books: Laughing at My Nightmare, Not So Different, and Strangers Assume my Girlfriend is my Nurse. The titular girlfriend, now wife, is Hannah Aylward. Not living with a chronic disease or disability herself, Hannah’s relationship with Shane has been subject to expressions of many people’s ignorance towards disability, caregiving, and love. To this end, the pair’s YouTube channel, Squirmy and Grubs (named after the pair’s affectionate nicknames for one another early on in their relationship) has aimed to spread awareness of life with SMA and of what is apparently known as “inter-abled” relationships. Since this channel’s launch in 2018 it’s amassed over 1.6 million subscribers, who are served anything from vlogs about light-hearted arguments, updates on Shane’s health, wedding videos, and… pretty much the same content any other YouTuber couple posts. 

It should be noted that the reason the videos get these many views, and indeed the reason Shane’s blog gained so much traction in the first place, all those years ago, is because they’re funny. Shane has an unusual mix between a dry wit and an absurdist “yes, and” which usually takes a collegiate career in an improv troupe to hone. Hannah is no stranger to sarcasm herself, but also takes the role of a straight man to Shane’s absurdity, even acting sometimes as an audience surrogate or narrator: “yes audience, today Shane has decided…”. 

The pair have now taken to podcasting to bring their joy and humour to new audiences. Junkyard Mayhem, named after a particularly persistent joke Shane made every time a wedding vendor asked what vibe they wanted for their ceremony/reception, launched in 2022 and is available wherever you get your podcasts. 

Answering questions from Reddit’s popular Am I The Asshole game, and an original game called “hypothetical freaks”

The podcast is not dissimilar to their YouTube content in many ways. Each week the pair sit down for around 45 minutes and talk about their lives. Particularly in the early episodes, this focused on their IVF journey, which has also been at the forefront of some of their YouTube videos from that time. The podcast also features occasional recurring segments. These include relationship quizzes, answering questions from Reddit’s popular Am I The Asshole game, and an original game called “hypothetical freaks”, in which the pair try to imagine the worst things they can do in an upcoming anxiety-inducing situation, in an attempt to ease this worry by ensuring the reality will be much less disastrous than what occurs in this game. Hannah also leads a segment called a “Dumpster Dive” in which she thoroughly researches and presents information on a given topic, sometimes SMA-related, other times specific to her interests (see episode 12 for a very comprehensive explanation of the phenomenon known as cute aggression). Additionally, the pair sometimes treat their listeners to free readings of a chapter from one of Shane’s books, and occasional guest appearances from other family members.  

Both Shane and Hannah offer public speaking bookings as part of the Laughing at my Nightmare charity, which also organises fundraising events like an annual run, walk, or roll, and is gearing up to launch an academic scholarship program. Through their podcast and YouTube videos, Hannah and Shane have shared dozens of stories of things well-intentioned strangers have said to them, and detailed why they are offensive, in efforts to improve public awareness of disability and ableism. They also publicise the way using an electric wheelchair complicates things many of us take for granted, such as air travel. For example, they share a detailed example of how the Transport Security Administration (TSA)’s PreCheck system is completely but not obviously inaccessible for somebody who cannot extend their fingers to have their prints scanned or stand up to have their picture taken by a camera set at a non-adjustable height. The pair’s accessibility advocacy has led to real-word improvements over the years and this podcast is another avenue through which they can promote and create this change. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts, and if you enjoy it then look forward to their upcoming book Interabled. 


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