This is a case study for Principle V2: Accessibility
The UK’s diffuse statistical landscape
There are many public bodies that produce official statistics across the GSS. It is the totality of these statistical families that make up the UK’s statistical landscape. The data provided by these statistics helps to support the day-to-day running of government by:
- Providing published evidence to help assess the impact of government policies and legislation and to evaluate outcomes
- Helping to refine the delivery of front-line services by assessing the effectiveness of operations and identifying areas in need of improvement.
However, because the publication model for the UK’s statistical landscape is widely diffused, users must often search a large number of official websites to find the data they want. Many users are also at a disadvantage, if they are not experienced in navigating the UK’s statistical landscape.
The GSS Interactive Tools
The web-based GSS Interactive Tools allow users to search, filter, and explore official statistics from a single location, across a range of thematic areas. The tools achieve this by linking users to statistics of interest, while also allowing them to filter by numerous categories, including:
- Statistical theme
- Country or countries of interest
- Organisation that produces the statistics
- Geographic scales – from country-wide level, down in some cases, to scales smaller than local authority level
- Frequency of publication – such as one off (ad hoc) publications, once a decade censuses, or weekly statistics
- Number of years the statistics cover
The GSS Interactive Tools have been designed to work with common assistive technologies, such as screen readers, and adhere to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines “AAA” ratings (gold standard). The tools are also mobile and tablet native and the subject areas are regularly updated based on user needs (i.e. weekly for health statistics to quarterly for housing statistics), to ensure that content remains relevant.
Making official statistics more accessible
In November 2017, OSR published a systemic review of housing and planning statistics. The review showed that the diffuse nature of this particular landscape acted as a barrier to accessing data. This meant that UK housing and planning statistics, as a whole, fell short of the Code’s Accessibility principle.
In response, GSS members formed a Housing and Planning Statistics Working Group, including colleagues from many government departments and the Devolved Administrations. To improve the accessibility of official statistics, the group worked to provide proper signposting for users and potential users. This led to the development and launch of the GSS Interactive Tools for housing and planning statistics in September 2019.
The success of the tools, coupled with their reproducible nature, has since led to the inclusion of other statistical areas. The tools now include hundreds of statistical releases on the topics of:
This increased thematic coverage and successful engagement with users through social media and blogs, has driven continued growth in the number of users regularly using the tools.
Feedback from users and stakeholders has been very positive and continues to come from a wide range of sectors, including:
- Local and national governments
The usefulness of a single access point for statistics is a common theme within the feedback. User-research continues to help refine the accessibility, content, and functionality of the tools. This ensures that the information provided is clear, concise, and does not rely on expert knowledge. This helps to further increase the accessibility of UK statistics to a broader range of potential users. These improvements have, in part, led to the nomination of the tools for a GSS Excellence Award.
OSR has also highlighted the positive impact that the tools have had on the accessibility of official statistics, via its:
- Two-year follow-up report on housing and planning statistics
- Systemic review of mental health statistics in England
- Comments on the launch of the health and care landscape
- Citing of the tools as an exemplar in applying the principles of the Code
The GSS Interactive Tools showcase how following accessibility best practice increases the value of official statistics and data, for users and potential users. Built to meet a broad range of needs, the tools accommodate people with different levels of subject knowledge and different accessibility requirements. This means that the burden of finding the information users need is less when using the tools. This helps to open up official statistics to a greater number of people who would have otherwise not have accessed them, including users of screen readers and other assistive technologies.