He's Teaching Others About Disability in the Funniest Way Possible


This is how Shane Burcaw would poop without his specialized bathroom equipment: 

A man holds Shane over the toilet. Text reads: This is how I'd poop without my specialized bathroom equipment.

If you hesitated before laughing, don’t bother. 

This meme, and others like it, appear on the 23-year-old’s Tumblr to promote his non-profit, Laughing At My Nightmare. Burcaw, who has spinal muscular atrophy, affecting the part of his nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement, founded the organization to show others how humor can improve their lives, while also bringing awareness to disability issues.

Shane sleeps outside of steps in front of a house. Text reads: This is where I'd sleep if my house had no wheelchair ramp.

The non-profit started in 2011 after Burcaw started blogging funny stories about living with spinal muscular atrophy. When his blog gained popularity and more than 500,000 followers, he realized humor was an entry point to educate others about his disability.

“People tend to shy away from disability, and I think humor makes it more accessible (pun not intended until I was halfway through the sentence),” Burcaw wrote in an email to The Mighty. “If someone laughs at a disability-related story I write, they’re going to unintentionally be learning about disability at the same time.”

With the help of his cousin, Sarah Burcaw, Laughing At My Nightmare was born. 

Since founding his organization, Shane Burcaw has traveled around the country as an inspirational speaker, published a memoir (with high praise from “The Office” star and Soul Pancake founder Rainn Wilson on the cover: “I would help change his underpants anytime.”), and even won an Emmy in 2013 for a short autobiographical documentary, “Happiness is Always an Option.”

But now, a recently launched project, No More Nightmares, is providing more than laughs.

Shane lays in a car, strapped in with seat belts. Text reads: This is how I'd travel if my van did not have a wheelchair ramp. “Keeping (my) hunk of man meat alive is expensive as hell,” Burcaw wrote on his Tumblr. “From breathing machines, to feeding tubes to the bathroom equipment that lets me poop when I need to, the cost of living with SMA is astronomical. Luckily, I have always had the items I need, but there are thousands of people in my position who don’t have those things.”

The goal of the No More Nightmares project then, is to provide grants for people with muscular dystrophy so they can buy the things they need.

And the goal of the memes? “To make make people care about and understand complex issues like living with muscular dystrophy,” Burcaw said. And if it makes them giggle, that’s cool too. “I wanted to show the world (in a funny way) just how vital our No More Nightmares program is.”

Shane lays at the bottom of a pool. Text reads: This is who I would swim without my adaptive swim float.

The non-profit awarded its first grant to a 15-year-old girl with congenital muscular dystrophy, who used the money to buy a new specialized bed.

To support Laughing at My Nightmare’s No More Nightmare project, you can donate. Families and individuals affected by muscular dystrophy can apply for a grant online.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.