By Patty White
Ken Twergo and I met in Tucson, Arizona in the 1980s. We are both adventurous, and in 1991 we moved from the Sonoran desert in Arizona to the Northern Rocky mountains of Idaho. We lived first in the mountains, then later in Boise. We loved western mountain life and lived it fully for most of that decade. In the magnificent white of winter snow, however, I began to see dark splotches in my vision. Something was wrong. My life, and our lives, would take an unexpected turn.
I sought medical care for what was eventually described as macular edema, caused by an inflammatory cycle, the origin of which was never determined. I had lots of procedures, medicines, and as my vision worsened I sought counsel all over the country. I learned a lot from the patient’s chair. With my vision struggles, I just worked harder. I stayed in my treasured position as Assistant Director at the Idaho Humanities Council until 2001. My office eventually became fully adapted with low vision aids to maintain necessary reading, computer work, and administrative organization.
I’d always seen Ken as “the lemons to lemonade guy.” He is a born problem solver. It was no surprise, then, that when I started to panic he set out to learn all he could about adaptive technology for vision. He read about a disabilities conference and got on a plane. There he found the latest devices that vision disabled people were using to pursue their education and careers. He came back both humbled and inspired by the range of the possible. As Ken’s excitement grew, he envisioned a new business.
He started his first low vision business, Intermountain West Low Vision Products, in Boise in 1998. He took vision equipment all over Idaho and Montana, fishing rod in the back of the truck, just in case. He met lots of people in a short time. He saw that lives were transformed because the equipment was so good. The business took hold. Manufacturers encouraged him to expand into Oregon and Washington. He rented an apartment in Portland. He has never looked back. In 2001, I moved to Portland to join him in the growing business, which we renamed Vision Matters.
Ken regards his work as uniquely rewarding. Low vision technology is life-changing for those experiencing the stress of not seeing well and not willing to give up. Ken continued to grow the business, training a team of representatives to travel and demonstrate products throughout seven western states.
In 2006 the company made another change, expanding its Vancouver, Washington showroom and changing its name to The Low Vision Store. I began writing an online blog, as we took our business to the Internet.
Patty White knitting with the IBIS FHD Pro
Ken Twergo relaxing in downtown Portland, Oregon