The Mark Dower Trust awards young adults with ataxia financial grants of up to £3,000 to support their independence - whether through further education, hobbies and interests, or equipment. In 2018, Piers won a portion of the grant to pay for an iPad Pro; he's studying illustration at university, and the iPad Pro accommodates his tremor caused by ataxia.

Piers tell us more about how the grant has supported him.

My name is Piers Schofield and I am a student studying Illustration at the University of Huddersfield. I am currently at the end of my second year. I really enjoyed my first year, because of the new facilities and equipment that I got to try out, and I excelled at my studies, having earned a high 2:1 grade for the year which I was really proud of.

I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia when I was 16 and in recent times, the condition has started to have an impact on the quality of my work. When I put this issue forward to one of my tutors, he suggested I have a go at using a drawing tablet to draw and make art. I found it really easy to draw on and was able to be more precise and more able to correct any mistakes without spoiling the piece.

After weeks of using a tablet, I decided that I wanted one of my own. I did some research into which tablet would be most suitable for me, and eventually I decided on the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. Being a student, however, meant I didn’t have the means to fund it myself.

I had managed to save up a third of the costs on my own before realising it would take me almost another year to save up the rest. It was my mum who suggested having a look at applying for a grant from the Mark Dower Trust, to seek help for the remainder. The application process was simple and straight forward; everything I needed to include in my application was clearly pointed out, and after several weeks of preparing my application, I submitted it.

In the final few days of February, I was delighted to receive a letter confirming my application had been approved and within the fortnight, I received my iPad Pro and Pencil.

Having the iPad has made a huge positive impact on my work (left). Now, I am able to make art using different techniques and transfer images to my computer, which saves me having to scan a drawing. The Pencil makes it possible for me to be precise with my work and produce more clear and high standard pieces. As well as a drawing tablet, I am able to use it as a laptop, being able to write my essays and PowerPoint presentations on it. I can also use it for communication, such as emails and social media. Everything I need as a student is in this one tablet, and I am so very grateful to the Mark Dower Trust for helping me to get it.

I would recommend this item to anyone with a disability because of how easy to use and accessible it is, and also as it has opened up so many windows of opportunity for me. It has made me look forward to my third and final year at university.

The Mark Dower Trust runs applications on a yearly basis. The new application period opens each year at the Ataxia UK Annual Conference, with Alison Halls, co-funder of the Trust, presenting the application and all the help it can offer. The deadline for applications to the grant is in January each year. Applicants can request any amount up to £3,000, and the grant is divided between a number of applicants when possible. Read more about how to apply here!