Ken Twergo has done a lot of things in his life, but he says none were as rewarding as his business, The Low Vision Store, where he offers products such as reading machines, magnifiers and computer software to aid people with macular degeneration and other vision-loss conditions. He and his wife, Patty White, began the store as a way to help people regain their ability to knit, read the paper, do crosswords, view their grandchildren’s photos — all the things those with good vision take for granted. He encourages people to address a vision-loss issue early. “One thing I say to people a lot is that the best time to address solutions to vision loss is when you have your best remaining vision. That always means ‘now.’ ”
Name: Ken Twergo.
Business name: The Low Vision Store; by appointment only, 360-254-3344 or 888-216-1912.
Educational/professional background: I studied business administration, have owned restaurants and developed real estate, and I have worked in low-vision rehabilitation for 18 years.
How — and when — you got started in your business: I started my business in 1998 after attending an international trade show on disabilities. I was seeking adaptive aids that might help my wife after she lost her detail vision in the midst of a career she loved at the Idaho Humanities Council. We were living in Boise at the time. I discovered there was a tremendous need for good, current information about everyday tools for vision loss. Few people in that city had heard of low-vision aids, let alone seen firsthand what good devices could do to restore the ability to read, manage paperwork, and stay independent.
Personal/business philosophy: Treat the people who come to see me how I would like my wife treated if she came to someone like me for help.
Most rewarding part of your job: Knowing that I have more often than not helped individuals learn essential tools to regain their independence and restore stimulation and productivity in their lives. So many people don’t know about low-vision aids at all. Even more are surprised to see the ever-improving array of new devices that can go with them, get them on the Internet, help them share pictures and change the batteries in their hearing aids. I have worked with people from 3 to 108 years old. I consider it a privilege working with my oldest clients.
Most challenging part of your job: Convincing some people who want to give up not to give up. I listen to what they say, sometimes to their sadness. I am ever-hopeful that I will find that sweet spot where they will accept a changed visual world and use the tools to get back into it. My wife now uses the magnification aids she depends on to read to make jewelry and knit socks on the tiniest of knitting needles.
Something surprising about your work: I am always surprised by how much I learn from the people who find me, many with age-related vision loss. In nearly 20 years in this work, I feel fortunate to have learned so much from absolutely wonderful people — about aging, about love and loss, and about living the joy in life.
Best feature of your Clark County community: Patty and I feel comfortable here. We love that we can raise vegetables and a small flock of chickens. Healthy food inspiration is everywhere.
What would make your community a better place: Sidewalks, and taking good care of our beautiful river.
Your favorite travel destination and type: We have a 19-year-old cat at home, so car trips to the Oregon Coast are a favorite. I do get to travel all around Oregon and Washington in my work, visiting with clients in their homes, sometimes in the smallest hamlets I would never find otherwise. The Northwest is a unique and diverse environment.
Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: We discovered a real French patisserie that opened last summer: Baron Patisserie. It is unbelievably wonderful and better than anything anywhere in Portland.
Hobbies: Well, fly fishing is a favorite. Lately, however, I’ve been loving backyard bird watching. Patty says I have eyes for the both of us.
Most enjoyable book/play/movie/arts event in past 12 months: Blue Sky Gallery, anytime, in Portland. It is a wonderful venue for photography.
Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: Visit Ecuador.
One word to describe yourself: Optimistic. (Patty calls me “the lemons to lemonade guy.”) Optimism is just a part of me.
Person you’d most like to meet: OPB’s Steve Amen.