Disability Activist & Regional Councilor Melio Defeats COVID


Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Iacopo Melio

Before defeating a serious bout of COVID-19 which left him hospitalized for 27 days in 2021, Iacopo Melio has fought vigorously for better accessibility and inclusivity for disabled people, as well as a more inclusive environment for everyone. Throughout his six years of activism, he created the very hashtag that inspired  his nonprofit onlus #vorreiprendereiltreno (#IWantToTakeTheTrain) ,which was used to advocate for a better and more inclusive design of transit systems. After his movement gained momentum, Melio rejected offers to run for office until he earned a Political Science degree, citing his desire to truly learn before taking up any official positions. This past summer he finally accepted an offer to become a member of the Regional Council of Tuscany for the Democratic party, winning by a large majority of votes.

A native of San Miniato (Pisa), Melio, who has the Escobar variant of the multiple pterygium syndrome, has first-hand experience when it comes to the inaccessibility of public transport for disabled citizens, such as having to call a station prior to arriving to see if there was a wheel-chair accessible train with appropriate features to accomodate the disabled. His experiences have spurred his campaigns that call for a more accommodating system, and he has attracted countless supporters by attending various events and talks where he voiced his opinions for change.

Melio’s Facebook post where he thanks his supporters after accepting his candidacy now takes a on new meaning after he announced that he tested positive for Covid: ““THANK YOU for getting this far with me and THANK YOU if you want to keep walking next to me.  I will need your support just like yesterday, because little has changed.  Keep standing by me  tomorrow because we can still create positive transformation.”

The support he received was continued by his followers through his battle with Covid. He cautioned the public, saying that he lived in almost total isolation and if he could get it and get through it, anyone could. Melio reported his symptoms: “To date I have so much tiredness and weakness, headache and sore throat, sinusitis, some fever, but above all a great difficulty in breathing, despite not having a lot of cough… I have chosen to write about it, and not reply to the numerous messages, comments, etc … until I am really better.” He ended his post asking his followers to keep him in their prayers.

Iaocpo Melio about to leave the hospital after defeating COVID

Melio used Facebook to communicate news of his sickness and recovery. He relied on kind messages from loyal supporters, while hoping for his health to improve.

Melio announced his victory over Covid-19 with a Facebook post that began, “HO VINTO IO” (I won). Though Melio has now tested negative, his journey is not over. “It will be a long and slow recovery,” he says, explaining that his body and mind have undergone many changes. “Now I will need to dedicate myself to getting better:  to recovering weight and muscles, better breathing and getting back to more normal diet. But I will return to work, gradually and in small doses, maybe as soon as next week, because I feel the need to integrate this nightmare into my life and do something good with it… with awareness and determination. Because after all it is precisely the pain that we have to dig into, with bare hands and open eyes, to bring out the best.”

He urges the public to remain safe and protect the community by adopting appropriate behavior designed to slow the spread of the deadly virus.  (autumn noury)

To read more on Melio’s inspiring story in Italian, visit Florence’s La Repubblica new site.