The ideal of a 'barrier-free environment' is promoted in developed countries as a means of increasing the independence and mobility of disabled people. The adoption of this concept for developing countries requires critical analysis. Indonesia, for example, has formulated a physical access code, but has not succeeded in the implementation. The focus of this article is on middle-class professional disabled people in cities in Indonesia. Indonesian collectivist values and unequal status that arise from the feudal system do not encourage independence. Such values and the restrictive and inadequate public infrastructures render disabled people invisible in public. The availability of maidservants and chauffeurs assists urban disabled people from the middle class. They may be professionals, who desire to be independent in mobility and other daily living activities. Ambulant disabled people are also excluded from social life due to the custom of squatting and sitting on the floor for household work and traditional socializing. As a result of these factors and the current unstable social, economic and political conditions in Indonesia, barrier-free design is not a priority in most planning and design and seems futile in its realization.