by Amy Mason and Anna Kresmer
Eager to learn more about the ways that the vanished inhabitants of the building dealt with blindness, the roly-poly adventurers retreat inside once more and navigate through the empty hallways until they find a metal door. Rolling forward, Lieutenant-Commander Jot presses against and twists the door handle, preparing to open it. The door, with Jot still attached, swings forward over open air. Astonished to find nothing under her mass, she emits a small yelp of surprise.
“Jot!” cries the captain.
“I’m fine, ma’am. But it looks like we’ll have to find another way down. The stairs have collapsed.”
Captain Dottie reaches out a suction cup-like appendage and pulls the hanging Jot back onto firm ground. Once stable, Jot stretches out an exploratory appendage and feels the inside edge of the hole, whereupon she discovers the still intact hand rail.
“I think we can slide down this, Captain!”
“I’m not sure we should trust it,” says Doctor Spot.
“What if one of us begins to slide down while one of the others holds on to them from behind? That way we aren’t putting all our weight on the rail at the same time, and we’ll have a braking mechanism.” Jot explains.
“Alright,” says the captain. “Let’s do it, but we’ll take it slow.”
Two by two the members of the crew begin to slide down the bannister, with each pair stretching and compressing their bodies like an inchworm as they move along. Soon they come to the door to the next level and make their way down another empty hallway to a large room.
Dotted around the vault-like room are several statues and tactile exhibits standing silently on display. Lieutenant-Commander Jot admires a primitive rocket purported to have been launched in 2004, while Captain Dottie inspects a small white cane said to have been used by an alien called tenBroek, the first leader of the inhabitants of the building.
Row upon row of shelves, some long since collapsed, wind back and forth across the dimly lit room. Countless books line the shelves, while others are strewn across the moldering carpet. Bending down to retrieve one brittle book from the top of a pile, Ensign Bean begins to carefully flip through its pages. A short while later, Captain Dottie discovers he has not moved from his spot for some time.
“Report Ensign. Have you found something of interest?”
“It’s this book, Captain. You’ve got to see this!” His voice shakes slightly as he bounces with excitement.
Squeak, squeak. “It appears that this book also uses multiple writing systems simultaneously.”
“It’s not just that, Commander. It also uses these raised diagrams on top of colored images of space phenomenon, like nebulas and celestial bodies.”
“Oh? And what’s so special about that, Bean?” Commander Point asks; a trace of sulking in his voice.
“It all makes sense now, Commander. They wanted everyone to be able to access the information regardless of their ability. If that meant using three systems of communication, then that is what they used. As long as the content, the knowledge, was available to everyone then that was what counted.”
“That’s quite a theory you’ve got there, son,” the commander says with a squeak. “But what evidence do you have to base it upon?”
Without a word, Bean hands Point a piece of paper which had been tucked into the front cover of the book. Giving the ensign a quizzical look, he unfolds the brittle paper, presses it to his chest, and begins to read.
[Note: Link to or copy text from “Access for All,” by Noreen Grice, Future Reflections, Volume 29, Number 4, https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr29/4/fr290408.htm]
Silently, the commander hands the paper to Captain Dottie.“That’s quite the discovery, Ensign. I think you may be onto something there. Access to information is one of the most basic rights of sentient life. It seems that these aliens understood this concept quite well.”